Five signs of small business identity theft, new protection methods

IRS Tax Tip 2017-86, Dec. 4, 2017

Small business identity theft is a big business. Just like individuals, businesses can be victims too. Thieves use a business’s information to file fake tax returns or get credit cards.

Identity thieves are more sophisticated than they used to be. They know the tax code and filing practices and how to get valuable data. The IRS has seen a sharp increase in fraudulent business tax forms. These include Forms 11201120S and 1041, as well as Schedule K-1. These affect business, partnership, estate and trust filers.

Signs of identity theft

Business filers should be alert for signs of identity theft. They should contact the IRS if they experience any of these issues:

  • The IRS rejects an e-filed return saying it already has one with that identification number.
  • The IRS rejects an extension to file request saying it already has a return with that identification number.
  • The filer receives an unexpected tax transcript.
  • The filer receives an IRS notice that doesn’t relate to anything they submitted.
  • The filer doesn’t receive expected or routine mailings from the IRS.

New procedures to protect businesses in 2018

The IRS, state tax agencies and software providers have ways to detect suspicious returns. However, some new measures can help validate returns in advance. The IRS and states are asking businesses and tax professionals to help verify if a tax return is legitimate. These procedures are new for 2018. Software for business tax returns will ask questions related to:

  • The person authorized to sign the return
  • Payment history
  • Parent company information
  • Past deductions
  • Filing history

More information

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Conservation needs strong support in next farm bill

By Cameron Peirce, published on hjp.com (High Plains Journal)

“Farmers help feed the world.”

I’ve heard that many times and have seen it on signs and in magazines. My family on the Peirce farm takes pride in those words. However, I think it’s time to expand the public’s understanding and support of an agriculture that does more than produce food.

On our Reno County, Kansas, farm, we help make water cleaner and more plentiful to our urban cousins in the area—including the half million or so folks in the Wichita municipal region that rely on Cheney Lake for their drinking water. By focusing on conservation, our goal is to have a healthier soil that better retains moisture and holds nutrients.

Use of precision agriculture allows us to monitor and apply water and nutrients where needed. We recently converted some irrigated acres to a buried drip system, which reduces water use and lowers impact on the soil. With the addition of rotations that integrate cover crops, weed pressure goes down, and water and nutrients stay in the soil and not in the streams.

These are just a few changes in technology and management that support an agriculture that is both productive and environmentally responsible. These changes usually mean farmers need to continually learn and make changes on the farm. That takes capital and involves risk—we can’t control the weather or markets. 

To address this risk, I appreciate the investment our nation makes to ensure there is a safety net for production, whether in the form of crop insurance or other revenue protections. But just as important, conservation programs support long-term productivity and profit for farmers as well as clean water and air, wildlife habitat, and long-term food security for everyone.

Working lands conservation programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture like the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program have been a tremendous support to our farm. Voluntary programs like these have helped support our investments in cutting edge technology and practices.

Supporting conservation in agriculture also saves valuable tax dollars. Conservation practices—like using cover crops, managing brush in grasslands and reducing tillage—makes farming and ranching more resilient in the face of more frequent droughts, floods and fires. This, in turn, means less taxpayer money spent on disasters and revenue loss.

As Congress moves forward with writing the 2018 farm bill, legislators must not shortchange conservation—especially those working lands programs like CSP and EQIP. Strong support of conservation is a win-win for both farmers and all Americans.

Cameron Peirce operates Peirce Farms along with his wife and two sons in Reno County. He serves as the Reno County Farm Bureau Board chairman; and vice-chair of the Kansas Sunflower Commission. Read more about Conservation needs strong support in next farm bill

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Your stories

To close the digital divide, it must first be identified

Despite the potential for broadband to modernize the economy in rural America, access and availability continue to lag. The President’s recent executive order affirmed this limitation and the need to commit resources to close rural America's digital divide.

Yet, the ability to pinpoint where service is and is not available is fundamental to closing the digital divide in rural areas.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, funding was allocated to establish a comprehensive nationwide map of existing broadband capability and availability. Funding for this program ended in 2014.

Some states, like Minnesota, have adopted legislation or maintained this degree of regulation which require internet service providers to provide access and speed availability data at a granular level.

However, reporting standards vary and often allow for telecommunication services to be reported at the census block level. In many rural areas, census blocks span entire counties, leaving room for error in reporting service availability.

The accuracy of data collected from internet service providers is an important tool used to determine where broadband access is sufficient and where it can be improved. This data is invaluable to state agencies and local entities to identify where public resources should be invested.

For the 23 million rural Americans who do not have broadband speed access, census block data is not sufficient to recognize and address the broadband gap. As federal and state governments seek to close rural America’s digital divide, it is imperative that gap is closed at the granular level, where it exists. Read more about To close the digital divide, it must first be identified

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Rural Nebraska's access to broadband internet up for discussion in the Unicameral

Access to high speed internet is essential to ensuring equitable quality of life in the modern economy. Two legislative bills introduced this week by Sen. Lynne Walz, of Fremont, seek to close the digital divide in Nebraska.

Currently, the ability for public entities to work with private companies on the installation of fiber optic cable required for broadband internet access is mired by regulation. LB 1113 introduced by Sen. Walz and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Briese, of Albion, would eliminate these restrictions.

Internet service providers are eager to work in partnership with rural communities and counties to improve access. With the passage of this legislation, municipalities could lay and lease fiber directly if they have a private partner in place to provide the services, at a cost savings to the community, service provider, and the customer.

Also fundamental to the expansion of high speed internet access for rural areas is the ability to pinpoint where service is and is not available. LB 1114 seeks to reinstate requirements for the reporting of broadband service access at a more granular level.

Current reporting standards allow for telecommunications services to be reported at the census block level, which for many rural areas of Nebraska, span entire counties. For example, residents in Taylor may have high speed access, but that does not mean there is access across all of Loup County. Enhanced reporting will provide service providers and municipalities with a more accurate depiction of where investments and build outs are needed.

Funding opportunities and legislative changes are key to the extension of internet access to all residents. The ability to expand broadband access in the state’s rural communities expands social and economic opportunities for Nebraskans.

The Center for Rural Affairs recognizes the opportunities expanded rural broadband service affords, and has endorsed both LB 1113 and LB 1114. Read more about Rural Nebraska's access to broadband internet up for discussion in the Unicameral

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Keeping communities vibrant through forward thinking

Jordan Feyerherm and Carlos Barcenas co-wrote this blog.

For hundreds of years, immigration has shaped U.S. history. And, it continues to shape America, especially in rural areas. Jordan and Carlos recently sat down to chat about our inclusion work.

What does inclusion mean?

Inclusion is making sure everyone in the community has a chance to participate and knows how to participate. It’s welcoming new people to the community and helping them access resources.

We’re talking about biases, so we can successfully navigate those and not let those influence decisions. We know immigration plays a big role in the inclusion conversation, but we’re not only focusing on ethnic diversity. Instead, maybe the issue is about religion, gender, or generational differences. There is more to diversity than ethnic diversity.

It’s not an agenda to teach one side to work with the other. Our goal is to empower community leaders to identify biases and set up plans to intentionally work on leadership.

How do conversations begin with community leaders?

It’s not an easy task. We’re encouraging leaders to have uncomfortable, comfortable conversations. How do we move forward in order to make our communities stronger?

We’re finding there are a lot of differences among residents. Differences are what make each community vibrant. We’re trying to explore those and celebrate them.

We are not experts. You cannot change a community without changing the individual, so that conversation has to start at the individual level.

Conversations begin with, “It’s OK to have biases. We all do.” Then we ask, “Is this bias preventing you from becoming a better leader, or from making better decisions that affect your community?” We let the community drive the conversation.

Has the national political climate affected this work?

Yes. The immigration and inclusion conversation has changed in the last year, along with the national political climate. Before the president was elected, we saw the race conversation pushed forward. As soon as Trump was elected, there was almost a complete shift.

People don’t want to talk about it anymore. They are not as curious or open to talking about race, diversity, and inclusion. We also see more people justifying their prejudice and their bias. We see more acts of pushback.

What is on the horizon?

Conversations about inclusion are some of the most challenging things, especially in a community climate where the conversation seems to be dominated by one group.

How can we sit down, behind closed doors if needed, to say, “How do we move forward and challenge our own bias, our biases?”

The demographics are changing in rural America. And, in a lot of rural communities, people are asking how they can keep their small towns vibrant.

Being forward-thinking about how we approach future problems is a big part of keeping rural areas vibrant.

Feature photo: In March 2017, we hosted a conversation about inclusion and immigration in York, Nebraska, featuring community leaders from Hastings and Fremont, and staff member Lucia Schulz. | Photo by Rhea Landholm Read more about Keeping communities vibrant through forward thinking

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Newsletter

A Discrepancy in Rural Nebraska’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides food assistance to 1 in 7 Americans, and 1 in 11 Nebraskans. This white paper by Jordan Rasmussen, policy program associate, examines “A Discrepancy in Rural Nebraska’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” Read more about A Discrepancy in Rural Nebraska’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Women’s Business Center Kicks off 16th year

Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Women’s Business Center is kicking off its 16th year as a program of the Center for Rural Affairs.

We continue to partner with local organizations to offer learning opportunities throughout the state.

Recently, “Online Marketing Strategies” sessions were held in Hebron and Central City, with sessions scheduled for Plattsmouth and Wood River in the near future.

“Facebook for Business” was offered in Central City, and “Top Ten LinkedIn Tips” was held in Lincoln in collaboration with Community Development Resources.

A key to business success is accurate and timely recordkeeping. QuickBooks sessions were held in Walthill, Scottsbluff, Norfolk, Atkinson, Kimball, Chadron, and Ainsworth. Sessions are planned for Neligh, Red Cloud, and O’Neill.

A “Business Plan Basics” course was offered in Loup City in cooperation with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District and Sherman County Economic Development.

Two “Sales/Use Taxes” sessions were held in Beatrice in September.

Click here for an list of training opportunities. This list is updated frequently, so check back often.

Feature photo: Presenter Diane Siefkes gives a “Facebook for Business” training in Central City. The session was presented by the Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP Women’s Business Center and local organizations. | Photo by Monica Braun Read more about Women’s Business Center Kicks off 16th year

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Growing number of confined animal feeding operations raises water quality concerns

At a time when people feel incredibly divided and polarized, some issues still resonate across the spectrum. In rural areas, these issues include eminent domain, farm profitability, and viable, vibrant rural communities. Another issue increasingly joining this group in Iowa is the widespread growth of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). A CAFO is defined as an agricultural enterprise where animals are raised in confinement, with a minimum of 1,000 animal units (which is 700 dairy cows, 1,000 beef cattle, 2,500 hogs, or 30,000 chickens) confined for 45 days per year.

In my first few months working on water quality in Iowa, I have asked people what their top concerns are. You can share your concerns, too, by taking our water quality survey here. Over and over, people are concerned about CAFOs and how their continued growth threatens rural water supplies all over the state.

I remember very clearly how raising hogs changed in the mid-1990s, because it was part of my childhood. Everyone in our rural area raised hogs, and my cousins and I would play in the small A-frame sheds that provided shelter for grazing hogs, hornet’s nests and all. All of that changed when the hog market crashed in 1998. The rise of large, corporate farms flooded the market with an oversupply of market hogs, depressing prices, and pushing small farmers out of business. Within a few years, all of our neighbors stopped raising hogs and were replaced by one large confinement selling manure as fertilizer for pennies on the acre.

Fast forward 20 years – Iowa leads the country with more than 3,500 CAFOs, as defined under the Clean Water Act. To put it in perspective, neighboring states have far less and face stricter regulations (See Table). Minnesota has the second highest number of CAFOs with 1,300. Wisconsin has 288, and Illinois has 279.

The rising number of CAFOs has coincided with the rise of impaired waterways across the state. More than half of the tested water bodies in Iowa are impaired. When North Carolina saw similar impacts in their water quality as CAFOs expanded across the state, they imposed a moratorium on any new sites in 1997. They adapted the rules 10 years later with strict constrictions. Now, they have 1,222 CAFOs, a boundary Iowa has blown past long ago.

Iowans take pride in their agricultural heritage and success, and they are good at raising hogs. But, it comes at a cost and a sacrifice. Other states have drawn lines around what they are willing to pay to have a thriving livestock industry. And, Iowa has not – which is a reflection of our values. But, is it an honest reflection?

Table: Total number of CAFOs and number under federal permit in 2016 for EPA Region 7 states.

Feature photo: Adobe Stock/Dario Sabljak Read more about Growing number of confined animal feeding operations raises water quality concerns

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Beginning farmers stand to benefit from proposed act

The average age of today’s farmer is 58 years old. Over the course of the next five years (the duration of the next farm bill), nearly 100 million acres of farmland are predicted to change hands.

Some retiring farmers and ranchers will pass their land and operations to their children or other relatives, however, many are heading toward retirement without a succession plan in place.

Today’s beginning farmers juggle a great deal in raising and marketing crops and livestock. We need to support policies that ensure they have the necessary tools and resources to be successful.

In November, congressional lawmakers introduced the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act to ensure the 2018 farm bill focuses on the future of American agriculture. The bill provides for programs and policies that would create opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

The bill expands beginning farmer and rancher access to affordable land; empowers producers with the skills needed to succeed in today's agricultural economy; ensures equitable access to financial capital and federal crop insurance; and encourages commitment to conservation and land stewardship.

We stand with congressional sponsors of this legislation in supporting beginning farmers and ranchers. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act should be included in the 2018 farm bill. Read more about Beginning farmers stand to benefit from proposed act

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Beginning veteran farmers benefit from proposed tax credit

A veteran’s sense of service and work ethic draw a distinct parallel to the skills and dedication required for successful farming and ranching. However, access to the land and financial resources needed to transition from military service to farming can be a challenge.

Last week, state lawmakers introduced the Beginning Veteran Farmer Tax Credit that could provide an incentive to those veterans. The bill seeks to expand Nebraska’s existing beginning farmer tax credit program by adding a 1 percent incentive for property and landowners who rent to a qualified beginning veteran farmer.

Under current statute, a 10 percent tax credit on cash rent, or 15 percent credit on the value of a sharecrop or cow-calf share rent, is available to the property owner when they rent to a qualified beginning farmer. The proposed revision would increase the incentive to 11 percent and 16 percent if the property is rented to a qualified beginning veteran farmer.

By encouraging agricultural property owners to rent to veterans, they are more readily able to pursue farming. As farmers and landowners look to transition their operations, renting to a beginning veteran farmer is not only an investment in an individual but also an investment in rural communities and the state’s economy.

The Beginning Veteran Farmer Tax Credit was introduced by Sen. Carol Blood as part of the Military Families Initiative for Nebraska legislative package.

The Center for Rural Affairs understands the challenges beginning veteran farmers and ranchers face, and has endorsed the Beginning Veteran Farmer Tax Credit. Read more about Beginning veteran farmers benefit from proposed tax credit

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Browse agricultural loans by state in updated directory

A newly updated online directory outlines 83 individual programs that assist beginning and first-time farmers, existing family farm operations, and agribusiness firms.

Agricultural loan programs, including those for beginning farmers, are listed in the newly updated directory of state agricultural loan programs, available free online here.

This directory is updated every few years by the National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs and the Council of Development Finance Agencies. The state-by-state listings include aggie bond loans, beginning farmer tax credit programs, and many other targeted agricultural loan programs.

Our website discusses farm startup financing strategies in addition to the directory's list. Click here for our beginning farmer resources. Read more about Browse agricultural loans by state in updated directory

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
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The Sunflower State – Assessing Our Business Garden

To ensure business owners are offered the products and services they need, it is imperative to simply ask. Business needs change as the economy shifts and technology modernizes, and entrepreneurs fluctuate in interests, financial situations, and energy levels. As citizens, large business owners, and business lenders and providers, we need to pay attention to those needs and assist if we want our downtowns, communities, and local economies to thrive. Read more about The Sunflower State – Assessing Our Business Garden

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