Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 13, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Last-Minute Tax Tips

  |   Video
  • The tax filing deadline is fast approaching, although it’s been extended this year. Get last-minute tax advice from IRS spokesman Bill Brunson and find out about enforcement efforts against tax cheats from IRS criminal investigator Jim McCormick.
Guests:
  • Bill Brunson - IRS spokesman
  • Jim McCormick - IRS Criminal Investigator -
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons: It's that time again -- tax time. This year's filing deadline's a touch later than usual. It's been moved to back to April 18th. There are some last-minute tips that may be helpful if you still haven't filed or need an extension. Joining us now is Bill Brunson, a spokesman for the IRS in Arizona. Also here is IRS special agent James McCormick. Good to have you both here.

Bill Brunson: Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: Bill, let's start with you. We're getting down to crunch time. Common mistakes?

Bill Brunson: Four major ones we see all the time. Math errors. People don't add or subtract. Double check your math. If you're going to submit the return, sign it. Married couples both need to sign, that’s an area. If you're claiming a dependent on a return break out the social security card for that individual, check the name, last name's spelling as well as the social security number so that you don't have an error match or a misinformation in that area. And then if you're going to direct deposit a refund, break open the checkbook and make sure you provide the correct routing identifier and account number. Those four areas are areas we see errors in and the best way to avoid that is to electronically file your tax return because it's not going to let you submit the return without signing it, it’s going to make sure you do the math correctly and so an electronically filed tax return is error free.

Ted Simons: I didn't mention this, I wanted to mention this in the intro, the deadline extension. Talk to us about what that means. How much extra time do folks get and do you get extra time to avoid a penalty?

Bill Brunson: There's six additional months, there's no charge. You can request one whether or not you have a balance due. It's for submission of the information, not for paying the tax. If a person did have a balance due return where they owed money, and they requested the extension to file, they would avoid a late filing penalty of 5% they would still incur a late payment penalty, of one half of one percent. But they’re not incurring that larger payment of penalty. So if you don't know if you're going to get a refund and you don't have the paperwork together, you can request an extension to file automatically. Go to irs.gov and click on the "free file" icon and all of Arizonans can use that service for free to submit electronically a request for their 2010 return.

Ted Simons: Good information. What types of investigations do IRS agents get involved in? I mean – we all understand that someone is messing around with their taxes, we understand that but you guys cover the waterfront, don't you?

James McCormick: We do, originally starting in 1919. We have about 2600 agents. Currently, some of the cases are things like the ones who had a Ponzi scheme of $25 million and promotions of concerts and things like that. And other individuals are like Robert Ray and Joann Skaggs in Tucson, taking money out of a fund set for social security for disabled and elderly and collecting about $175 million. So I mean, our investigations vary but it's an exciting field.

Ted Simons: I imagine, it sounds like it's not limited to just filing season.

James McCormick: No, it's not. Unfortunately, it goes on year-round and so a lot of times we'll do -- Bill and I go around telling people about our top 12 schemes.

Ted Simons: Give us a couple.

James McCormick: A couple are, for example, pfishing, which is spelled P-H, which is a good name for it. Because what it is is it's basically individuals trying to get you to bite and pull you in by utilizing false sites. They look legitimate. For example, false IRS sites. You never expect for example schemes for I.D. theft with the IRS. But they're trying to get that information to file returns and obtain the refund you were probably due.

Ted Smons: Is preparer fraud very common? A lot of us we walk into our tax preparer, it's like, please, help. Do we see a lot of fraud?

James McCormick: The majority of the preparers out there are great. About 60% of the people use preparers, unfortunately, there's nefarious preparers out there. There's signs you should look for. We try to let people know never sign a blank return. Never sign returns done in pencil. Don't go to the people who are going to guarantee a refund and don't go if they are looking and saying I want a percentage of the refund. Those are the things that stand out. And Bill’s going to kill me for saying this, but the phrase is don't be lax when it comes to tax. Do your due diligence. I'm going to copyright that.

Bill Brunson: I'm impressed.

Ted Simons: I was going to say not necessarily in iambic pentameter. But can you tell us how – let’s say maybe you owe money, a little more than you anticipated and you need to set up a payment plan. How do you do it?

Bill Brunson: Call the IRS, but wait until you've been formally billed. That way we know how much you owe and if there are specific options that are affordable for the amount you owe, we'll offer them to you. If you enter into a direct debit, there won't be a direct lien filed against you to ensure the government's money is paid eventually. If you do owe, call the IRS and we'll work out a payment arrangement. We do it all the time.

Ted Simons: Obviously, a few days left. You've got the weekend to --

Bill Brunson: People have plenty of time to file taxes.

Ted Simons: What if -- what is there still time to do?

Bill Brunson: You can electronically file and submit a paper return if you wanted to. Get the information together and work through it and take your time. It might take a couple of hours or it might not. But approaching it in a systemic matter and taking your time, you can file it online through IRS.gov or if you don't feel comfortable with doing it, you have time to contact a paid preparer and they can request a extension while they gather your information and later file the tax return. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is with the dirty dozen and the --

Ted Simons: Extended hours?

Bill Brunson: Oh that’s right, thank you. Phoenix metropolitan area all have extended hours. There’s three offices Glendale, Phoenix and Mesa. And they have extended hours on Thursday, for an additional hour, Friday for an additional hour and Monday April 18th, crunch day, for an additional hour. So they’re open from 8:30 to 5:30 for those days. Saturday, the Mesa and Phoenix offices have Saturday hours 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The Mesa office 1818 E Southern and the Phoenix office 4041 N Central, corner of central and Indian School.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, we’ve only got about 30 seconds. How common is the IRS investigating someone who just ran over their tax return with a tire and wrote whatever they wanted? How often do you see stuff like that?

James McCormick: Not often, fortunately, but we don't go after those individuals who make common, simple mistakes. You have to be -- if it's intentional and willful. So if you’re making common mistakes don’t worry about that. As far as criminally --

Ted Simons: Then start worrying. Gentlemen, we have to stop it there. Thanks for joining us we appreciate it.

James McCormick: Thank you.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • A weekly update of legislative news with a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times.
Guests:
  • Luige Del Puerto - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The governor breaks out her veto stamp for a couple of bills, with university officials hoping she does the same to legislation that allows guns on campus streets and sidewalks. Here with our weekly legislative update is "The Arizona Capitol Times" reporter Luige Del Puerto. Good to see you again, thanks for joining us.

Luige Del Puerto: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Let's start with the veto of the private school tax credit, the expansion of that program. Was that a surprise?

Luige Del Puerto: It was a big surprise. Governor Jan Brewer was expected to support and she had in the past and even in her veto letter she had said she's always been and remains very supportive of school choice and the program is, of course, a prime example of that. But in her veto letter she said basically that expanding it at this point unbalances the budget.

Ted Simons: Inappropriate, she said, to immediately put the fiscal year 2012 budget in jeopardy?

Luige Del Puerto: That's correct. The thinking behind the governor's veto is that the tax credits, by potentially -- they may be a tax credit but a hit to the general fund and she's concerned by expanding this program, it would hit the general fund more. This time, when they did those cuts to education and healthcare and other programs.

Ted Simons: But she's ok with the scholarships for special needs children, correct?

Luige Del Puerto: And she's always said that she’s ok with that – she’s always been amenable to that. I was speaking with Senator Steve Yarbrough this morning and this is actually not his bill but he's been identified with the STO-related legislation and said they'll try and salvage this legislation and pass or send the governor another one without those provisions she, you know, expressly disliked and Mr. Yarbrough said he might include in the legislation a provision in this bill that would allow individuals to claim more for contributions that they make to SDLs.

Ted Simons: Another veto, the so-called religious liberty bill. Protects against losing your license over religious beliefs. Surprise there?

Luige Del Puerto: It was. The governor has always supported socially conservative legislation. In this case, the governor felt that the language of the bill was too broad. Basically says you cannot revoke or suspend the license of a professional based on his or her religious expression. The governor felt that that's too broad, that might be used to basically hide or be used to protect someone even if that person had committed something harmful to someone else. It was surprising because the governor has always shown support for these types of measures.

Ted Simons: Police officials weren't happy because they would not be able to control what's happening in Colorado City when police officers don't prosecute or look after polygamous sex a and b those nosing around up there.

Luige Del Puerto: You can't go after the folks that don't -- you know, uphold the law because under this legislation, they can claim it's part of their religion.

Ted Simons: Alright we do have the birther bill seemingly being reborn and the senate says, ok. Let's move it to the house.

Luige Del Puerto: The senate did move the birther bill out of the senate and it's up to the house whether to approve the changes that the senate made. They want to make it clear that this bill is starkly different from when it was first introduced. Most of it is controversial and in this bill, you don't have to prove or -- you don't have to submit a statement saying your parents are -- both of your parents are American citizens at the time of your birth. They also amended the bill so you can show other forms of -- other documents, other than a long form birth certificate to prove you're a natural-born American citizen. SO it has been significantly watered down.

Ted Simons: Is it watered down to the point why bother? Is that what the critics are saying?

Luige Del Puerto: The critics are saying those concerns they had raised, like some may not have a birth certificate, those concerns have been addressed through amendments made in the senate and they think at the fundamental level the bill is flawed and they think the bill is flawed because it's asking presidential candidates to provide proof more than what's in the U.S. constitution. They think the state doesn’t have the authority to do that.

Ted Simons: Quickly, what do you think the house will do? What's the word regarding the house response and the governor, what she's likely to do?

Luige Del Puerto: As far as the governor, we don't know how she's going to treat this one. But we're assuming it will have enough support in the house to pass. Now that it's passed out of the senate, it will be probably more pressure for the house to do something about it. I'm assuming they'll get enough support to pass the legislation. I think it's crucial that some of those members that balked at the birthright legislation before, if you recall, some of the amendments added and changes made into this bill, they made a -- the bill workable.

Ted Simons: Before we let you go, it sounds like all of these immigration bills, such talk and consternation with Russell Pearce and John Kavanagh, pushing these things -- no more push.

Luige Del Puerto: For this year. John Kavanagh spoke with members of the senate who voted against the immigration bills and they basically said I think it's better if we wait until next year and given the very little time they probably have left in this legislative session, it's -- it's an admission they can't get consensus do something about it this late.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff, Luige, thanks for joining us.

Luige Del Puerto: Thank you.

Technology and Innovation: Intel Science Talent Search

  |   Video
  • Some of the nation’s most promising high school seniors in math and science were recently honored at the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search. Meet a Chandler student who finished in the top 10. And learn about Intel’s efforts to encourage kids to pursue careers in math and science.
Guests:
  • Scott Boisvert
  • Kathleen Barton - Intel's Education Manager
Category: Science

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of "Arizona technology and innovation," nearly 900 students are showing off their science skills this week at the Arizona science and engineering fair. It's taking place downtown at the Phoenix Convention Center. Another huge science contest concluded last month in Washington D.C. where the winners of the 2011 Intel science talent search were announced.

>> The first place winner of the 2011 Intel science talent search and the recipient of a $100,000 award, from Danville, California and venture school, Evan ODORNEY. [Applause]

Ted Simons: A California student won the top ward for high school seniors sponsored by Intel and the society for science and the public. Arizona was represented by a student from Basha High School in Chandler. Earlier I spoke with Scott Boisvert and Kathleen Barton, Intel's education manager about the competition.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us on Horizon. Scott, what exactly did your research project look at?

Scott Boisvert: My research project was looking at fungus that’s causing extensions across the globe. I was trying to find different chemicals in the water to stop the growth of the fungus.
Ted Simons: Why did you look at that particular research? What got you going?

Scott Boisvert: This fungus is actually causing the largest extinction since the dinosaurs so there’s been many problems because of it and especially in southern Arizona and Latin America there's been many problems because of this fungus and so I was help add to the cause and try to find something that could potentially stop it --

Ted Simons: How did you hear about something like this?

Scott Boisvert: So there's been many publications. A few years ago was actually the year of the frog and that helped out a lot of knowledge about it, there was many documentaries about it on PBS on other channels that helped spur my knowledge in it and see my interest and value in doing it – the project about this fungus.

Ted Simons: These projects, obviously very important in terms of education. Is this what the Intel science search is looking for? Talk about the science search in general.

Kathleen Barton: Absolutely. We've been a supporter of the Intel science talent search for the last 13 years and it's really about helping to create the next generation of innovators and the projects represent the preeminent high school research in the country and they're going to help to solve the global challenges, everything from curing cancer and figuring out amphibian extinction and maybe the sustainability of the planet.

Ted Simons: And again without getting into too much detail here, started back in the 40’s I guess with Westinghouse. Intel's been involved how long now?

Kathleen Barton: For the last 13 years and we're the main supporter of the program. And it brings together 40 students -- Scott was one the 40 finalists. It started with a field of 300 and actually almost 1800 students made applications of their research early on and they came to Washington D.C. to defend their research and meet with other students and meet with Nobel laureates and then celebrated and rewarded for the excellent achievements they have.

Ted Simons: As far as your research is concerned, how did you perform this study? What did you do, exactly?

Scott Boisvert: So I was working at Arizona State University in a lab there with Doctor Elizabeth Davidson and I would sample water from natural amphibian habitats and then have this water chemically analyzed and grow the fungus and observe how much it grew and moved and the different water environments and then correlate the two using different distilled techniques and then overall, I ended up getting a list of potential chemicals that would be influential in the growth and movement of the fungus.

Ted Simons: What about the variables were you close to industrial facilities, were you out there in the woods, southern Arizona, were you up in northern Arizona? Talk about to us about that.

Scott Boisvert: So I actually stratified out Arizona into the main watersheds and sampled from everywhere across the state. From sites close to urban areas to sites close to mining facilities and to really rural areas up in northern Arizona, I did the whole spectrum.

Ted Simons: You have natural contaminants and you do have industrial runoff effecting this particular disease?

Scott Boisvert: There could be potentially run-off from different cities, definitely natural contaminants, what I was looking at, specifically, was inorganic chemicals in the water and how they played a role in the growth and movement of the fungus.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised by what you found?

Scott Boisvert: I was definitely surprised, but definitely in a good way, I was able to find a lot more chemicals being influential in the growth than I had originally perceived and because of this, there's a lot more potential avenues for future research and building upon my experiment.

Ted Simons: For the research that Scott is doing and other obviously educationally scientific minded kids are doing -- students are doing, what are the challenges right now in terms of education? And talk about high tech and technology and computers. It just seems like it's a different world than even a few years ago.

Kathleen Barton: Well it is and I think there’s some real positive opportunities with technology. When you think about it, you can potentially bring the research that -- researcher that Scott is working with if she has technology in her lab, or a researcher from China or anywhere around the globe into a classroom doing research and Scott went out and found researchers on his own. Someone at ASU. But imagine if you don’t have that access if you lived in a rural area, potentially through technology, you can be able to talk with a researcher, use Skype to talk with them or bring them into a classroom through some type of technology.

Ted Simons: Is Intel seeing in the talent search I should say, are you seeing different difference experiments? Different kinds of students with different knowledge with that advancing technology?

Kathleen Barton: Absolutely. A couple of things about the search and the international science and engineering fair, it's evenly split between young men and women who participate in the fair and that's a change over the last number of years, but the breadth and quality of the experiments that the students are doing is amazing. Colleagues that Scott was with did everything from research only separation anxiety of students with their cell phones to how bumps on wing's surfaces might affect the velocity -- aerodynamically affect velocity. And then Scotts research, so these students are really presenting a very very wide variety.

Ted Simons: Do you see yourself continuing in the line of aquatic research of disease -- what do you see, what do you see in your future?

Scott Boisvert: Some of my future -- I'm actually -- I want to move into more of a medical direction and be a physician of some sort, and hopefully go toward an MD PHD Degree and do clinic research of some kind.

Ted Simons: I think a lot of our viewers would be interested to know, when did you -- you're still a young man, somewhere along the line -- but a lot of people want to be a fireman, a cop, a football player. When did you decide you wanted to study science, get involved in math and science?

Scott Boisvert: I've always been interested in medicine, but one the biggest contributing factors to me going into more of a science field is actually in the eighth grade year when I went to the Intel international science fair as an observer and that was a great opportunity for me. I got to participate in all the activities that all the kids do and got to meet from all over the world and it was a ton of fun and I knew I wanted to go back and engage in a deeper level of research.

Ted Simons: Was this something that your family was interested in? So when you were very young you tinkered around. Is there a teacher out there that inspired you? Again, a science fair is great but something has to keep you going there too doesn’t it?

Scott Boisvert: Yeah so definitely my family has been a great supporter. My dad is an engineer that works in research and development. And over the years I have had teachers that have really helped encouraged me to go into any field that I see as being able it like and enjoy myself in and definitely, research is one of those fields that I've recently acquired a great interest for.

Ted Simons: And Kathleen, that is the goal isn’t it? To get someone who has that interest, to keep it sparked, to keep it going and to find some other kids that may even want to be -- maybe a baseball or football player and all of a sudden they see science and math and they go, that's not too bad either.

Kathleen Barton: Absolutely. That's why at Intel we're investing $100 million in the Science competitions, in the Intel science talent search and the Intel international science and engineering fair so that we can create these opportunities for students to share their research and to advance and make the friends they've made and hopefully when we honor them the way we did in Washington D.C. and make them feel like rock stars maybe that will also then inspire and motivate other students to become the next generation of researchers and innovators.

Ted Simons: And we should say, $20,000. Not too shabby


Scott Boisvert: Not too bad at all.
Ted Simons: Not bad work if you could get it in high school huh?

Scoot Boisvert: Yupp.

Ted Simons: Well congratulations, great job and good luck with your future

Scott Boisvert: Thank you so much.

Ted Simons: And great job with you as well.

Kathleen Barton: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

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