Tax Scams To Be Wary Of: The Dirty Dozen List, (7-12)

Thanks for joining us again as we finish our little explainer on the 2019 “Dirty Dozen” tax scams you need to continue to watch out for this year. Every year, the IRS releases a “watchdog” style document that lawyers,  investors, and even the Taxmen themselves call the Dirty Dozen. In Part One, we covered six IRS and tax scams to be on the lookout for. Let’s explore the rest of the list, and learn how to dodge the other six scams the IRS warned us about.

#7: Identity Theft Scams

Identity theft affects millions of Americans, and REIS can be at particular risk. Criminals get heated around tax season, trying to get their hands on your info for nefarious purposes like:

And many more no-good-nick activities. Stay safe and protect your loved ones by guarding all personal info closely, preserving your anonymity online and in your investing, and keeping your guard up during Tax Season.

#8: Nonsensical or BS Lawsuits

As shameless as it sounds, people assemble all sorts of insane cases against the IRS. Sometimes these enterprising (read: frivolous) legal minds devise cases that sound compelling to those of you who, say, don’t deal with tax law for a living. But if someone tries to recruit you for a class-action suit that sounds even a little harebrained, that’s because it totally is. Liability suits against the IRS do happen, but if you’ve got a good case, you need an attorney, not some jerk who’s calling you to hop on a grimey business-side-of-lawsuits-bandwagon.

#9: Phone Scams

Seniors, you’re at particular risk of phone scams. They go something like this: you get a call from a stranger with impressive-sounding credentials and a totally unique secret way to beat the Taxman. Just ignore this nonsense, because there’s also a more common and serious problem of people making calls claiming to be IRS personnel. Don’t fall for it.

Avoiding this scam is easy: The IRS doesn’t make phone calls. Period. Just hang up stat--and if you have a real concern about your taxes, you can locate the real office you need on

But we all get weird calls, and here’s how to handle them: never give out personal information to strange callers. If you suspect your caller’s a robot, ask them directly (“Hey, are you a cyborg?) to see if you’re talking to a person or recording. Often these scammers are lazy, and your vigilance about avoiding strange callers’ demands and documenting without complying will keep you safe.

#10: Lying About Your Income

This can be a form of preparer fraud, but most of the time, the taxpayer is responsible. Falsifying income in any way is a horrible idea, so just don’t do it. There’s no benefit worth the trouble you can get into.

#11: Bogus Business Credit Claims

Brought to you by the geniuses who invented return padding, the practice of improperly filing business credit claims is widespread. Usually, the taxpayer just plain doesn’t qualify but takes the credit, or asserts a right to it anyway. It’s a spin on a false deduction, basically.

#12: Illegal Tax Sheltering

You can minimize taxes using many legitimate and legal strategies, as well as entities and other legal tools. But to do this, you’ve got to play by the rules. Often these problems come in the form of shady businesses promising high or even improbably huge savings. Any business directed at hiding from Uncle Sam is basically begging to get into a nasty tax dispute, and they WILL drag you into it  With so many legal options for decreasing tax liability, there’s no excuse for illegal tax shelters. Or getting busted.

Keep more of your money with a Royal Tax Review

Find out about the tax savings strategies that you can implement as a real estate investor or entrepreneur by taking our Tax Discovery quiz. We'll use this information to prepare to have a productive conversation. At the end of the quiz, you'll have an opportunity to schedule your consultation.    TAKE THE TAX DISCOVERY QUIZ

Tax Scams To Be Wary Of: The Dirty Dozen List, (1-6)

The IRS released its 2019 scam watchlist, affectionately known as the Dirty Dozen. What should you watch out for during this year’s tax season? Learn the latest below, and remember, it’s okay to be skeptical of any officer claiming to originate from the IRS.

#1: Illegal Use of Off-Shore Accounts

We’ve shared before about the legal use of off-shore banking, which is safe. Unfortunately, anyone illegally convincing you to use off-shore accounts to evade taxes is dragging you down a dark path. Should you follow, you’ll pay the price.

#2: Phishing Attacks

Phishing is better known as “that scummy move where people send convincing-looking fake emails to steal your log-ins.” For those unfamiliar with Scumbaggery, you’ll get an email that looks like it’s from, say, Your Bank. But it isn’t from Your Bank. It’s from some jerkface who wants you to believe he’s Your Bank, so you’ll unwittingly give him Your Banking credentials.

Watch emails closely. Unless you know someone personally, don’t take identities for granted online. An email from that’s consistent with other emails from Your Bank isn’t a phishing attack, and there’s nothing wrong with calling Your Bank (or whichever institution the caller claims to represent) to confirm.

Phishing preys on the implicit trust we have in our institutions and your laziness. Phishers hope you don’t look closely at the email. Awareness is your best defense.

#3: The Bogus Tax Return (Preparer Fraud)

You can avoid this one by simply ensuring your tax preparation professional is qualified and ethical. CPAs usually won’t pull this move, but fake pros crop up every year, sadly.

#4: Refund Scams

This type of preparer fraud involves shady characters claiming to be experts promising you absurdly high refunds. This should set off your BS detector--vet the provider or switch if this offer isn’t the first red flag.

#5: The BS Charity

We hope there’s a special place in the afterlife for people who invent fake charities. But hey, it’s their souls--just don’t donate to one or it’s your behind on the line. Uncle Sam can’t get your money back. Further, deductions toward fake charities don’t count, which leads us to...

#6: Return Padding and False Deductions

Yeah, people really try. Unethical preparers have been busted cooking books or creating a laundry list of bogus undeserved deductions to get a huge refund, usually to “earn” themselves a cut. The scam and how the preparer profits may vary. Consider this your fourth consecutive warning to be careful who you let do your taxes.

Including you. Many individual taxpayers have taken liberties with deductions, and even outright invented false deductions. There are times when ethical people are tempted to break the rules in life. But when you’re filling out a tax return isn’t one of those times. Save your rebellious side for the stage, the canvas, the negotiating table, the board room, the bedroom, or really anywhere that won’t get you into a hot mess with Uncle Sam. That’s not legal advice, by the way--that’s just good old-fashioned American common sense.

Keep more of your money with a Royal Tax Review

Find out about the tax savings strategies that you can implement as a real estate investor or entrepreneur by taking our Tax Discovery quiz. We'll use this information to prepare to have a productive conversation. At the end of the quiz, you'll have an opportunity to schedule your consultation.    TAKE THE TAX DISCOVERY QUIZ

Tax Responsibilities for Airbnb Hosts & Vacation Real Estate Investors

The vacation rental industry has been booming for some time now, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s how some people get into real estate: by realizing the income from renting a room in one’s home is pretty nice. More investors and ordinary folks are taking advantage of platforms such as Airbnb to maximize their real estate income. If you’re one of them (or thinking about becoming a host), you should be aware of your tax obligations. Here’s the quick and dirty guide for the vacation rental investor.

14 Days: The Magic Number

One simple way to avoid extra tax expenses is to limit vacation renters to a two week stay annually. The Tax Code only kicks in the costs discussed below for visits over this time period. So if you, say, are an occasional user of Airbnb or tend to only have very rare short guests, you won’t need to report the income. But here’s the catch: you can’t deduct your business expenses on unreported income.

When Do You Have to Report Income From Airbnb?

If you meet the following conditions, you must report and pay taxes for your vacation rental business:

  1. You have guests on your property for over 14 days.
  2. You occupy the home for over 14 days of the year or 10% or more of the days you’re renting.

If you live in the home you’re renting, that means you will have to distinguish which portion of the mortgage is related to personal vs. business use. Property taxes and interest will also be recorded on Schedule E of your tax return.

You May Get a 1099 From Airbnb

Airbnb might send you a 1099-K, the type of 1099 for third party transactions. If Airbnb withholds funds for any reason, you’ll also receive notifications of withholdings at your mailing address.

Not everyone gets a 1099-K from AIrbnb. However, if you earn over $20,000 or make over 200 reservations in a single tax year, you will receive one. Airbnb will also report your earnings.

Other Tax Issues for Vacation Rental Investors to Note

Everything discussed above pertains to federal law. But Airbnb investors must also conform to state and local regulations. Airbnb and vacation rental regulations change fairly rapidly and vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

The best thing an investor can do to ensure they are complying with all state and local laws is to  acontact a qualified real estate attorney. A small fee for a bit of legal advice that could keep you away from a tax dispute is totally worth it.

Section 280A: Home Office Deduction Rules

Many people who have office jobs envy those who can work from home. If you're a small business owner, freelancer, or kick-ass entrepreneur who uses a home office, you probably know that the truth is a little bit more complex. Sure, you can sometimes get away with working in your pajamas, but working from home also takes a lot of discipline and incurs many costs. Fortunately, there is an entire section of the Tax Code that allows for home office deductions that can add up to significant savings. Meet Section 280A, the birthplace of those sweet, sweet write-offs. Read on to learn how to make the most of your Home Office Deductions while staying compliant with the IRS's rules.

Rule #1: You Must Have an Actual Home Office

You can take advantage of the benefits of Section 280A if you have a dedicated office space in your home. Uncle Sam calls this the "regular and exclusive use" requirement. Now, Uncle Sam is reasonable about this. Your entire home does not have to be business-only, but you must have a space in it that is solely for business purposes.
In theory, you could convert your neglected TV room or basement for this, but you have to use it only to manage your business. We have many real estate investor clients who do exactly this and are still acting within the lines of the law. This rule is designed to keep unscrupulous taxpayers from writing off personal expenses as business expense. Of course, we know you wouldn't do that. Just be sure you can prove your case if anyone looks into the use of your home office space.

Rule #2: Your Home Office Must Be Your Business's Base of Operations

The IRS calls this rule the "principle business location" requirement. In plain English, this means your home office must be where the majority of your business is conducted. Let's say you are running a real estate business from a home office. If you are using it for most of your business activities (phone calls, meetings, computer-based work), you can still use another location for other purposes. But only to a point. Having a separate office for meeting high-profile clients or completing shipping duties, for instance, would still qualify you for Home Office Deductions.
One caveat of this rule to understand is that the IRS takes the literal amount of space in your home devoted to business only into consideration. The more physical space in your home that you devote to your business, the better.

Get Professional Help With Your Home Office Deductions

Most people with reasonably stable mental health don't enjoy spending their free time deciphering the tax Code. While this article has explained the basics, these issues are complex. Fortunately, you don't have to slave over the time-consuming process of understanding every detail of Section 280A. That's why the smart move is to get advice from the tax professionals at Royal Legal Solutions. Our tax attorneys already know the Internal Revenue Code inside and out. After all, many of our clients are take-charge entrepreneurs who work from home. In fact, so many of our investors are self-employed individuals that we also offer retirement planning advice for self-employed individuals. Don't torture yourself too much trying to understand the regulations: get professional help today.

RMD Penalty Waiver: Using The 5329 Form For a Missed IRA Required Minimum Distribution

With all due respect to any financial masochists in the audience, nobody derives pleasure from paying taxes. But it's kind of part of the deal of living and working in the United States.

You have to pay Uncle Sam, and he's not about to start making exceptions for the money from your IRA. One of the requirements of IRA accounts is that you will have to take a Required Minimum Distribution eventually. Failure to do so  is something Uncle Sam frowns upon. In fact, he dislikes it so much that he'll send his minions to hit you with a massive 50% penalty.

The penalty is 50% on the amount you should have distributed from your IRA to yourself. This is tremendously annoying to a person who has otherwise been fiscally responsible, because they are essentially being punished for failure to pay themselves. From their own IRA. You know, the kind of account most of us save into for all of our working lives.

The irony of this situation is lost on nobody, but with that massive of a threat hanging over your head, you should know how to avoid it.

So, if you've been hit with the 50% penalty, don't throw yourself a pity party just yet. There’s some good news about how you can possibly get a RMD penalty waiver.

Steps To Getting the RMD Penalty Waived

In the event that you failed to take RMD for your IRA, you may be able to get a waiver for the penalty if you admit the mistake to the IRS by submitting the forms we'll talk about below (See Steps 2 and 3).  We all know Uncle Sam loves his paperwork, and yes, I'm telling you that you can possibly get back in his good graces with his favorite thing: more paperwork!

Fortunately, it's not an overwhelming amount of paperwork, especially for what you stand to gain (or more accurately, not lose). I'll describe the process in two simple steps, laid out in plain English.

Step #1: Take The RMD

Even if you know fully well that you intended to dodge the RMD, you're going to have to correct the "error" to get any sympathy from Uncle Sam. Better late than never. But you want to get this first step knocked out as expeditiously as you can, so you can move on to the super fun forms in Step #2.

Step #2: Complete Section IX Of Form 5329.

First, you'll need to say what you should have taken as an RMD. Using this number, you will calculate the penalty tax due. It's okay if you're not a math whiz—use a calculator

Now scroll down to Line 52. Here, you will need to put the letters "RC" next to the exact dollar amount you are requesting to have waived.

Step #3:  Attach a Missed RMD Letter of Explanation

Your statement of explanation will need to hit on two key points. The first thing you need to explain is the “reasonable error” that caused you not to take RMD. The IRS does not provide a precise definition or clear-cut circumstances for “reasonable error."  However, one expert I consulted with the IRS told me the IRS does respond well to oversights in a broad variety of situations where they can be persuaded the error was unintentional or otherwise not your fault.

Since these categories are vague, let's look at circumstances or situations that have worked for other taxpayers in this situation.  

Examples include suffering from a mental illness or falling victim to a damaging health situation or equally legitimate reason that may have stopped you from filing accurately.  If you've reached the age of 70 ½ years, or are new to taking RMDs, or fail to understand the requirement, these can also serve you. Other clients have succeeded in receiving waivers based on taking bad recommendations from a professional they had entrusted to help them, such as an advisor, custodian or accountant.

If one or more of these situations apply to you, list any and all of them. The IRS, despite its hawkish reputation, does certainly respond to logic and, if you're lucky, with empathy.

The second thing you need to explain is the reasonable steps you took or intend to take in the immediate future to remedy the mistake you made.

Showing Good Faith Gets You The Waiver

By the time you’re filing the exemption request, you want to have already contacted your IRA custodian. If you haven't by this point, be sure to do so before you file. This way, you can take the late RMD (see: Step 1). This means that as soon as you submit the RMD penalty tax waiver, you would be caught up and would have already remedied the error. Showing good faith is more likely to get you the waiver you need.

You can contact the IRS's Taxpayer Advocate Office as well for assistance following these steps, as well as more specific advice regarding your individual situation.

Keep in mind that RMD failures won’t go away. Uncle Sam is like an elephant: he never forgets. Sooner or later you’ll start getting collection letters from the IRS requesting the 50% penalty tax. The best way out of it is to get as ahead of it as you possibly can. You should correct your RMD failure, request the waiver, and fill out all of the necessary paperwork as soon as you learn of the looming problem.

This is especially if you have an inherited Roth IRA, as those withdrawals would ordinarily be totally tax-free! 


If you’ve been hit with a 50% penalty don’t panic. You may be able to get a waiver for the penalty if you admit the mistake to the IRS by filing a 5329. Come clean. Throw yourself at the mercy of the court.

You’re going to have to write a Statement of Explanation that outlines:

  1. What makes your error “reasonable,” such as mental health issues or bad advice from a bad advisor. The IRS is, at times, capable of compassion.
  2. The process you are planning to take, or have taken, to correct the error. If you’re on top of things, you’ve already taken the missed RMD. This makes everything clean, from your explanation for the error, to the enemy’s acceptance of your reasonable explanation.

Keep in mind that RMD failures don’t disappear. The IRS is a relentless, greedy machine. They WILL get their money. Get your error fixed!

Hopefully your panic level has dropped by now. The above is a simple, clear explanation of what steps you’re going to take. Essentially, your explanation will be that you already corrected the RMD failure as quickly as you could upon learning of the error.

If you are the beneficiary of an inherited IRA, check out our article, Calculating RMD For An Inherited IRA.



Do I Need A Registered Agent for My Out Of State LLC?

Whether you're new to the real estate business or not, if you do business outside of your home state you're going to need an LLC registered agent. Learn more about this requirement and how to satisfy it below.

Why a Registered Agent Is Required For Every LLC

An LLC registered agent is required in every state that it does business. The only reason for the registered agent to even exist is because if someone wants to sue your LLC, and they're not able to get to a member or manager personally to be able to serve them. Then this allows them to serve the lawsuit onto the Secretary of State and be able to have a person that must receive service of process or the lawsuit. Typically, these services are able to be engaged for anywhere from between 40 and $75 per year online. And they're all fungible, meaning that they're all the same, no matter where you go. So I always recommend saying, what's the best deal that you an get, and be able to go with that. My name is Scott Smith, I'm an Asset Protection Attorney at Austin, Texas. I'm a real estate investor, and I wanna help you.

Why Is a Registered Agent Required For My LLC?

The purpose of the registered agent is to receive legal correspondence. So for example, if someone wants to sue your LLC, they'll mail the notices to your agent and not your house.

A registered agent is your LLC's point of contact for all legal matters in the state which it does business. The agent is legally responsible for all of your LLC's tax and legal documents.

So, let's say you formed an LLC in Delaware and you live in Florida. You would be required to get someone (it can honestly be anyone) who is a legal resident of the state of Delaware to be your LLC's registered agent. However, there are some exceptions to this requirement.

A few states allow your LLC to be its own agent. And in most states, you won't have to get an agent as long as you have a physical address in that particular state. (Don't try to use a PO box!)

Also worth mentioning is that you can be your own agent.

Can I Be My Own Registered Agent?

Yes you can! But fair warning: If you decide to be your own registered agent, you will be legally responsible for all of your LLC's tax and legal documents. This may cause you to miss an important piece of mail while you're on vacation or sick, etc.

The advantage in having someone else be your agent is that it removes your legal liability. And in that sense, a registered agent is a form of asset protection. Hiring an agent should cost you between $40 and $75 per year online.

And don't worry, they're all the same no matter where you go. So you won't have to compare anything except price when you shop around for an agent.

What Happens if I Don't Get a Registered Agent?

If you don't get an agent, you may be subject to fines and kept from entering into legal contracts or the state court system in the particular state that your LLC was formed in. Some states will even file criminal charges against you.

If you have any questions about registered agents and LLCs, feel free to ask me in the comments below. In the meantime, learn more about LLCs and the all new Series LLC structure.

If you still have personal questions or want to learn more about Royal Legal Solutions' Registered Agent Service, contact us now.