Tag Archives: income tax

Cancellation of Debt… Income?

If you have had a lender discharge part or all of a debt that you were liable for, you may owe income tax on the amount that was discharged. This is because certain debts that are cancelled or forgiven by a lender result in taxable income to you, even though you have not technically received any money in hand from the debt forgiveness.

Generally, debt that is discharged or canceled by a lender must be included in your taxable income. Debt forgiveness income, or Cancellation of Debt (COD) income, is the product of the amount of debt that a lender discharges or cancels. Unless a specific exception applies, a lender’s cancellation of debt will generally result in income to the borrower. 

In general, if the amount forgiven or canceled is $600 or more, the lender must issue to you, and to the IRS, a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, showing the amount of debt canceled. Even though the creditor has issued Form 1099-C, you may be able to claim an exclusion from income for the canceled debt.

Exclusions from income. COD income is not always taxable.The most common situations in which cancelled debt does not result in taxable income include the following:

  • The debt has been discharged through a bankruptcy proceeding under Title 11
  • Insolvency (your total debts exceed your total assets)
  • Qualified principal residence debt (limited to $2 million, or $1 million for married taxpayers filing separately)
  • The debt is due to a qualified farm expense or farm property (“qualified farm debt”)
  • The debt is due to certain real property used in a trade or business (“qualified real property business debt”)

Other exclusions may apply to student loans, disaster victims, gifts, general welfare payments, and deductible payments.

Reduction of attributes. When canceled debt is excluded from income, the debtor may be required to reduce tax attributes, such as the basis of property. The reduction of attributes must be reported on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and included with your federal income tax return. If you do not reduce attributes, the IRS may take the position that you are taxable on the COD income.

Non-recourse loans. A non-recourse loan is a loan in which your lender‘s only remedy in case of default is to repossess the property subject to the loan. That is, property that is either being financed or used as collateral for the loan. In these cases, your lender cannot pursue you personally in case of default. Although forgiveness of a non-recourse loan resulting from a foreclosure does not result in COD income, it may result in other tax ramifications. 

Mortgage debt forgiveness. For a limited period of time, certain mortgage debt that is discharged by the lender is excludable from COD income and therefore does not result in taxable income to homeowners. This is generally referred to as “qualified principal residence debt.” The cancellation of qualifying mortgage debt is excludable from income if it is incurred with respect to the taxpayer’s principal residence for “acquisition” debt forgiven on or after January 1, 2007 and before January 1, 2018. Acquisition debt is indebtedness secured by the residence and incurred in the acquisition, construction or substantial improvement of the residence.The exclusion is limited to $2 million ($1 million for married taxpayers filing separately.)

Certain debt used to refinance the debt is also eligible. Debt forgiven on a second home or rental property does not qualify.

Credit card and car loan debt. Noticeably absent from the specific exceptions to COD income are two of the biggest consumer debt items: credit cards and car loans. Credit card debt or an unpaid debt on a car loan that is forgiven by the lender is includable in gross income, unless the debtor is bankrupt or insolvent. The lender will report the amount of forgiven debt on Form 1099-C. If you had debt discharged from income that does, or does not, qualify for an exception, you must include the amount of cancelled debt in your gross income on your tax return. 

Researching charities

Tool on IRS.gov helps taxpayers research charities before making donations

Taxpayers may be able to deduct donations to tax-exempt organizations on their tax return. As people are deciding where to make their donations, the IRS has a tool that may help. Tax Exempt Organization Search on IRS.gov is a tool that allows users to search for charities. It provides information about an organization’s federal tax status and filings.

Four facts about the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool:

  • Donors can use it to confirm an organization is tax exempt and eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.
  • Users can find out if an organization had its tax-exempt status revoked. A common reason for revocation is when an organization does not file its Form 990-series return for three consecutive years.
  • EO Select Check does not list certain organizations that may be eligible to receive tax-deductible donations, including churches, organizations in a group ruling, and governmental entities.
  • Organizations are listed under the legal name or a “doing business as” name on file with the IRS. No separate listing of common or popular names is searchable.

Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant, Can I Deduct my Charitable Contributions? to help determine if a charitable contribution is deductible.

Taxpayers may also want to decide now if they’ll itemize their deductions when they file next year. Last year’s tax reform legislation made changes to the standard deductions and itemized deductions. Many individuals who formerly itemized may now find it more beneficial to take the standard deduction. So, taxpayers should check their 2017 itemized deductions to make sure they understand what these changes mean to their tax situation for 2018.

More information about these changes is on IRS.gov/taxreform.

Dos and Don’ts for Taxpayers Who Get a Letter from the IRS

Every year the IRS mails millions of letters to taxpayers for many reasons. Here are some tips and suggestions for taxpayers who receive one:

  • Don’t ignore it. Most IRS letters and notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice deals with a specific issue and includes specific instructions on what to do.
  • Don’t panic. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies do send letters by mail. Most of the time all the taxpayer needs to do is read the letter carefully and take the appropriate action.
  • Do take timely action. A notice may reference changes to a taxpayer’s account, taxes owed, a payment request or a specific issue on a tax return. Taking action timely could minimize additional interest and penalty charges.
  • Do review the information. If a letter is about a changed or corrected tax return, the taxpayer should review the information and compare it with the original return. If the taxpayer agrees, they should make notes about the corrections on their personal copy of the tax return, and keep it for their records.
  • Don’t reply unless instructed to do so. There is usually no need for a taxpayer to reply to a notice unless specifically instructed to do so. On the other hand, taxpayers who owe should reply with a payment. IRS.gov has information about payment options.
  • Do respond to a disputed notice. If a taxpayer does not agree with the IRS, they should mail a letter explaining why they dispute the notice. They should mail it to the address on the contact stub at the bottom of the notice. The taxpayer should include information and documents for the IRS to review when considering the dispute. The taxpayer should allow at least 30 days for the IRS to respond.
  • Do remember that there is usually no need to call the IRS. If a taxpayer must contact the IRS by phone, they should use the number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. The taxpayer should have a copy of the tax return and letter when calling.
  • Do avoid scams. The IRS will never initiate contact using social media or text message. The first contact from the IRS usually comes in the mail. Taxpayers who are unsure if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information on IRS.gov.

IRS now billing those who filed but didn’t pay; Many payment options available

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today advised those now receiving tax bills because they filed on time but didn’t pay in full that there are many easy options for paying what they owe to the IRS.

If a tax return was filed but the balance due remains unpaid, the taxpayer will receive a letter or notice in the mail from the IRS, usually within a few weeks. These notices, including the CP14 and CP501, both of which notify taxpayers that they have a balance due, are frequently mailed in the months of June and July.

How to pay

Taxpayers may pay taxes by electronic funds transfer, credit card, check, money order or cash:

  • Taxpayers can use Direct Pay to pay directly from a checking or savings account. This service is free.
  • Taxpayers can take advantage of the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) to pay by phone or online. EFTPS® is a free service of the U.S. Department of Treasury.
  • Taxpayers may also initiate a debit or credit card payment. The IRS doesn’t charge a fee for this service but the processing company may. Fees vary by company.
  • Taxpayers may pay by check or money order made payable to the United States Treasury (or U.S. Treasury) either in person or through the mail.
  • Taxpayers should not send cash through the mail. They can pay cash at some IRS offices or at a participating PayNearMe location. Some restrictions apply.

Taxpayers who are unable to pay what they owe should contact the IRS as soon as possible. Several payment options are available including:

  • Online Payment Agreement — Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined income tax, penalties and interest and businesses that owe $25,000 or less in payroll tax and have filed all tax returns may qualify for an Online Payment Agreement. Most taxpayers qualify for this option, and an agreement can usually be set up in a matter of minutes. Online applications to establish tax payment plans, like online payment agreements and installment agreements, are available Monday – Friday., 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Saturday., 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight.
  • Installment Agreement — Installment agreements paid by direct deposit from a bank account or a payroll deduction will help taxpayers avoid default on their agreements. It also reduces the burden of mailing payments and saves postage costs. Taxpayers who don’t qualify for a payment agreement may still pay by installment. Certain fees apply.
  • Delaying Collection — If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until the taxpayer’s financial condition improves.
  • Offer in Compromise — Some struggling taxpayers qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the amount they owe by submitting an offer in compromise. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.

In addition, taxpayers can consider other options for payment, including getting a loan to pay the amount due. In many cases, loan costs may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties the IRS must charge under federal law.

Even if a taxpayer works out a payment solution with the IRS, the agency may still need to file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien to secure the government’s interest. Federal law requires the lien to establish priority as a creditor in competition with other creditors in certain situations, such as bankruptcy proceedings or sales of real estate. Once the IRS files a lien, it may appear on a taxpayer’s credit report and harm their credit rating. Therefore, it’s important that they work to resolve a tax liability as quickly as possible before lien filing becomes necessary. Once the IRS files a lien, the agency generally cannot issue a Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien until the taxpayer pays taxes, penalties, interest and recording fees in full.

Stay current

Taxpayers can take steps now to make sure they don’t fall behind on their taxes in the future. The IRS encourages several key groups of taxpayers to perform a “paycheck checkup” to check if they are having the right amount of tax withholding following recent tax-law changes.

Employees can increase their tax withholding by filling out a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and giving it to their employer. To have more tax withheld, claim fewer withholding allowances or ask the employer to take out a fixed amount of additional tax each pay period. To help figure the right amount to withhold, use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.

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https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-now-billing-those-who-filed-but-didnt-pay-many-payment-options-available

2017 Tax Cuts Act: Impact on Families

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act makes sweeping tax changes that impact virtually all taxpayers. For individual taxpayers and their families, changes include a decrease in the tax rates, repeal of the personal exemption, increase in the standard deduction, modification to itemized deductions, and doubling of the child tax credit.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, personal exemptions are repealed ($4,050 in 2017) for 2018 through 2025. Instead, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides for a near doubling of the standard deduction. For tax year 2018, it increases the standard deduction from $13,000 to $24,000 for married individuals filing a joint return; $9,550 to $18,000 for head-of-household filers; and $6,500 to $12,000 for all other individuals. These standard deduction amounts are indexed for inflation for tax years beginning after 2018. The additional standard deduction for the elderly and the blind ($1,300 for married taxpayers, $1,600 for single taxpayers) is retained.

Itemized deductions
Mortgage interest deduction. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits the mortgage interest deduction to interest on $750,000 of acquisition indebtedness ($375,000 in the case of married taxpayers filing separately), for tax years beginning 2018 through 2025. For acquisition indebtedness incurred before December 15, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows current homeowners to keep the current limitation of $1 million ($500,000 in the case of married taxpayers filing separately). Taxpayers may continue to include mortgage interest on second homes, but within those lower dollar caps. However, no interest deduction will be allowed for interest on home equity indebtedness.

State and local taxes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits annual itemized deductions for all nonbusiness state and local taxes deductions, including property taxes, to $10,000 ($5,000 for married taxpayer filing a separate return) for 2018 through 2025. Sales taxes may be included as an alternative to claiming state and local income taxes.

Miscellaneous itemized deductions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals all miscellaneous itemized deductions for tax years 2018 through 2025 that are subject to the two-percent floor under current law.

Medical expenses. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowers the threshold for the deduction to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax years 2017 and 2018.

Casualty losses. For tax years 2018 through 2025, a casualty loss will only be allowed to the extent it is attributable to a federally declared disaster.

The phaseout of itemized deductions is suspended for tax years 2018 through 2025.

The doubling of the standard deduction and modifications to itemized deductions effectively eliminates many individuals from claiming itemized deductions other than higher-income taxpayers. For example, for the vast majority of married taxpayers filing jointly, only those with total allowable mortgage interest, state income and local income/property taxes (up to $10,000), and charitable deductions exceeding $24,000, would claim them as itemized deductions (absent extraordinary medical expenses).

In contrast, the enhanced child credit has been highlighted as one of the provisions that will lower overall tax liability for middle-class families. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily increases the current child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per qualifying child. Up to $1,400 of that amount is refundable. The child tax credit is also expanded to provide for a $500 nonrefundable credit for qualifying dependents other than qualifying children. More families will be able to take advantage of the credit due to an increase in the adjusted gross income phaseout thresholds, starting at $400,000 for joint filers ($200,000 for all others).

In addition to changes related to exemptions, the child tax credit and the standard and itemized deduction discussed above, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also makes changes to alternative minimum tax and the individual tax brackets. Because these tax provisions are interrelated, estimating the impact of these changes to the tax liability for any particular family is challenging. However, as with any tax reform, there will be winners and losers.

Example 1: Married Couple (both 45); AGI $100,000; 2 children (ages 8 and 12); mortgage interest $6,000; property tax $5,000; state income tax $3,000; charitable contributions $500

Example 2: Married Couple (both 45); AGI $200,000; 2 children (ages 19 and 22, both in college); mortgage interest $10,000; property tax $18,000; state income tax $6,000; charitable contributions $1,000

Example 3: Married couple (both 45); AGI $400,000; 2 children (ages 10 and 12); mortgage interest $12,500; property tax $25,000; state income tax $8,000; charitable contributions $7,500

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  1. Total itemized deductions in 2018 would remain the same at $14,500 which is less than the new standard deduction of $24,000.
  2. Deduction for total amount of property tax and sales tax would be limited to $10,000 in 2018. Therefore, total allowed itemized deductions of $21,000 would be less than the standard deduction of $24,000.
  3. Deduction for total amount of property tax and sales tax would be limited to $10,000 in 2018. Total allowed itemized deductions of $30,000 are not phased out and is more than the $24,000 standard deduction.

Keep in mind that many of the changes to the Internal Revenue Code in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are temporary. This is true especially with respect to the provisions impacting individuals. This decision was made in order to keep the tax reform within budgetary parameters, but with no guarantees that a future Congress would extend them. In future years, as the tax reform provisions expire, tax liability for individuals may be negatively affected.

2017 Tax Cuts Act: What it Means For Businesses

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed by President Trump on December 22. The Act makes sweeping changes to the U.S. tax code and impacts virtually every taxpayer. For businesses, tax benefits include a reduction in the corporate tax rate, increase in the bonus depreciation allowance, an enhancement to the Code Sec. 179 expense and repeal of the alternative minimum tax. Owners of partnerships, S corporations, and sole proprietorships are allowed a temporary deduction as a percentage of qualified income of pass-through entities, subject to a number of limitations and qualifications. On the other hand, numerous business tax preferences are eliminated.

Corporate Taxes
A reduced 21-percent corporate tax rate is permanent beginning in 2018. Also, the 80-percent and 70-percent dividends received deductions under current law are reduced to 65-percent and 50-percent, respectively. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also repeals the alternative minimum tax on corporations.

Bonus Depreciation
The bonus depreciation rate has fluctuated wildly over the last 15 years, from as low as zero percent to as high as 100 percent. It is often seen as a means to incentivize business growth and job creation. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily increases the 50-percent “bonus depreciation” allowance to 100 percent. It also removes the requirement that the original use of qualified property must commence with the taxpayer, thus allowing bonus depreciation on the purchase of used property.

Section 179 Expensing
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act sets the Code Sec. 179 dollar limitation at $1 million and the investment limitation at $2.5 million. Although the differences between bonus depreciation and Code Sec. 179 expensing would now be narrowed if both offer 100-percent write-offs for new or used property, some advantages and disadvantages for each will remain. For example, Code Sec. 179 property is subject to recapture if business use of the property during a tax year falls to 50 percent or less; but Code Sec. 179 allows a taxpayer to elect to expense only particular qualifying assets within any asset class.

Deductions and Credits
Numerous business tax preferences are eliminated. These include the Code Sec. 199 domestic production activities deduction, non-real property like-kind exchanges, and more. Additionally, the rules for business meals are revised, as are the rules for the rehabilitation credit. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act leaves the research and development credit in place, but requires five-year amortization of research and development expenditures. It also creates a temporary credit for employers paying employees who are on family and medical leave.

Interest Deductions
In an attempt to “level the playing field” between businesses that capitalize through equity and those that borrow, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act generally caps the deduction for net interest expenses at 30 percent of adjusted taxable income, among other criteria. Exceptions exist for small businesses, including an exemption for businesses with average gross receipts of $25 million or less.

Pass-Through Businesses
Currently, up to the end of 2017, owners of partnerships, S corporations, and sole proprietorships – as “pass-through” entities – pay tax at the individual rates, with the highest rate at 39.6 percent. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows a temporary deduction in an amount equal to 20 percent of qualified income of pass-through entities, subject to a number of limitations and qualifications.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act contains rules that will prevent pass-through owners—particularly service providers such as accountants, doctors, lawyers, etc.—from converting their compensation income taxed at higher rates into profits taxed at the lower rate.

Net Operating Losses
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act modifies current rules for net operating losses (NOLs). Generally, NOLs will be limited to 80 percent of taxable income for losses arising in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. It also denies the carryback for NOLs in most cases while providing for an indefinite carryforward, subject to the percentage limitation.

These are just highlights of the changes and impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. There is much more than can be covered in this post.

Establishing Profit Motive for Business Activities

If you reported losses from one or more business activities, we would like to remind you that the IRS has rules that limit the deductibility of expenses and losses from a hobby or activity not engaged in for profit.


If the IRS determines that an activity is not profit-driven, deductions from the activity are limited to the amount of income the activity generates. Losses from such activities cannot be used to offset other income, such as salary or investments.

 

You must be prepared to show that an activity that generates deductions is a business from which you intend to profit. It is not necessary that the activity actually earns a profit, so long as a profit is one of the motives for participating in the activity.

 

The IRS assumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year, or at least two of the last seven years for activities that consist primarily of breeding, showing, training or racing horses. Otherwise, the IRS applies non-exclusive tests and factors to the surrounding facts to judge whether activities are more like a business with a profit motive, or are for personal satisfaction.

 

To make sure you are properly claiming all of the deductions available to you, and to strengthen your position in the event of an IRS audit, it is important to consider all the facts and circumstances surrounding activities the IRS is likely to challenge.

Tax Consequences for Self-Employed Individuals

Owning your own business can be very rewarding, both personally and financially. Being the sole decision-maker for this important undertaking can also be overwhelming.

Business owners have many choices to make, and these decisions involve tax consequences that are not always foreseen. We can help you minimize your overall tax burden by identifying and maximizing business deductions, providing guidance on substantiation of expenses, and exploring tax planning alternatives that are uniquely available to the self-employed.

Some frequently overlooked business expenses that you may be able to deduct include moving expenses, costs of travel away from home, entertainment expenses, and expenses related to a home office. Code Sec. 179 expense allowances on the purchase of new equipment can provide a significant deduction. In addition, there are multiple benefits when you employ your spouse, child, or other family member in the business.

There are some risks involved in adopting tax positions related to operating a business as an independent contractor. For example, the distinction between employee and independent contractor is an issue the IRS subjects to special scrutiny. As a self-employed individual, you must comply with these rules for yourself or for any workers that you hire.

If you are an employer, you must withhold income and employment taxes from an employee’s income. However, if your workers are independent contractors, you are only required to report payments of $600 or more on a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income. Failing to make the right classification, however, could result in additional taxes, interest and penalties.

The IRS offers an amnesty program called the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) to encourage employers to reclassify their workers as employees for employment tax purposes for future tax periods. Under the VCSP, employers are allowed to prospectively treat the workers as employees at a cost that is 10 percent of what is normally owed in a worker misclassification situation.

Complex rules and calculations are involved in many of the planning opportunities that are available to you. We will be happy to review your overall tax scenario in order to maximize your tax savings. Please contact our office at your earliest convenience to make an appointment.

Declared Natural Disasters and Emergencies Tax Help

When natural disasters occur, as has happened recently with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the last thing you want to stress over is filing taxes. The Comptroller’s office understands, and they have compiled information for evacuees and relief workers on how to request an extension for reporting and paying taxes.

Follow this link to see all your options if you are one of the thousands affected:

https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/resources/disaster-relief.php

 

New phone scam warning from the IRS


The Internal Revenue Service today warned people to beware of a new scam linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), where fraudsters call to demand an immediate tax payment through a prepaid debit card. This scam is being reported across the country, so taxpayers should be alert to the details.

In the latest twist, the scammer claims to be from the IRS and tells the victim about two certified letters purportedly sent to the taxpayer in the mail but returned as undeliverable. The scam artist then threatens arrest if a payment is not made through a prepaid debit card. The scammer also tells the victim that the card is linked to the EFTPS system when, in fact, it is entirely controlled by the scammer. The victim is also warned not to contact their tax preparer, an attorney or their local IRS office until after the tax payment is made.

“This is a new twist to an old scam,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Just because tax season is over, scams and schemes do not take the summer off. People should stay vigilant against IRS impersonation scams. People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”

EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes electronically using the Internet or by phone using the EFTPS Voice Response System. EFTPS is offered free by the U.S. Department of Treasury and does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card. Since EFTPS is an automated system, taxpayers won’t receive a call from the IRS. In addition, taxpayers have several options for paying a real tax bill and are not required to use a specific one.

Tell Tale Signs of a Scam:

The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:

The IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds.

For more information, visit the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.

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Information from :  https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/irs-warns-of-new-phone-scam-involving-bogus-certified-letters-reminds-people-to-remain-vigilant-against-scams-schemes-this-summer