Taxes

Get the Most Out of Your Tax Refund in 2021

By: CFPB

The coronavirus pandemic continues to put a huge strain on household finances. Even in a normal year, a tax refund may be the biggest check you receive all year.

This year, if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is allowing you to choose whether to use your 2019 or 2020 income to receive the most credits for which you are eligible. By filing your taxes, you can also make sure you get any stimulus money you may not have received.

We encourage you to file your taxes as soon as you can to take advantage of this money.

Benefits of filing a federal tax return in 2021

Even if you are not required to file federal taxes, doing so this year may be the only way to get back any money that was withheld from your wages (a refund), plus cash in on key benefits and stimulus payments, also known as Economic Impact Payments (EIP).

Benefit 1: Income Tax Refund

If you worked at any time during 2020 or received unemployment, you may have had income taxes taken out of your paycheck, and you might be able to get a tax refund.

Benefit 2: Tax Credits

You may be able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit when you file your taxes this year. If you are eligible for one of these tax credits, it could reduce the amount of tax you owe and may even earn you a refund.

Because the coronavirus impacted many people’s incomes in 2020, the IRS’s “lookback rule” allows you to choose between your 2019 or 2020 income to determine which will get you the most money back on your EITC or CTC.

Make sure to have your 2019 tax return on hand when you file this year’s taxes so that you have all the information you need.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The EITC or EIC is a benefit for working people with low-to-moderate income. Claiming the credit can reduce the tax you owe and may also give you a larger refund. Use the IRS’s Earned Income Tax Credit Assistant to help you figure out how much you qualify for this year, or ask your tax preparer if you qualify.

Child Tax Credit

The CTC is available if you claim any children younger than 17 (at the end of 2020) as dependents on your taxes. The CTC is worth a maximum of $2,000 per qualifying child. Up to $1,400 is refundable. To get a CTC refund, you must earn more than $2,500.

Benefit 3: Economic Impact Payments

In 2020, the federal government authorized direct payments to Americans called Economic Impact Payments, to help them weather the financial strain from the coronavirus pandemic. Most people who qualified already received these payments.

However, if you don’t normally file taxes and you didn’t receive one or both of the EIPs to help with coronavirus relief in 2020, you may still be eligible.

SECOND ROUND OF FINANCIAL RELIEF THROUGH ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS

In December 2020, the federal government extended additional financial relief to millions of Americans through a second round of stimulus payments, also called Economic Impact Payments (EIPs). The IRS began issuing payments of $600 a person in December to eligible individuals.

If you did receive an EIP but did not get the right amount, you can also claim the difference when you file. On your 2020 tax return, the EIP is called the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC). When you do your taxes and fill out a 1040 or a 1040SR form, there will be a place to fill in how much RRC you already received, and then you can calculate whether more money is owed to you.

How to file your federal tax return in 2021

There are several ways to file a tax return, including free tax preparation services for low- to moderate-income individuals, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers. Learn more about affordable ways to file a tax return.

Get help if you need it

You don’t have to be an expert to file your taxes. If you meet certain income requirements, there may be free tax preparation options to help you get your refund and all the credits you’ve earned.

Because of the pandemic, many Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs are offering a variety of tax preparation options in 2021 including virtual tax preparation, drop-off services, and facilitated self-preparation. See if there is a VITA program near you. You can also go to MyFreeTaxes and choose to prepare your own return using free software or to seek free tax preparation assistance.

If you do seek the help of a professional, remember to ask them about choosing your 2019 or 2020 income for the purpose of calculating your EITC and CTC.

Direct deposit your refund

Direct deposit is the safest and fastest way to receive a tax refund. Setting up direct deposit is not just quicker and more secure, it’s also a particularly good solution if you don’t have an address where you can reliably receive mail. If you do not have a bank or credit union account, you can explore account options that are safe, affordable, insured, and can be opened remotely.

The money you get in this year’s tax refund could help cover necessities like food, bills, rent, or mortgage payments. If you do have the ability to save this year, learn more about using your tax refund to start an emergency fund.

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Identity Theft, Saving, Taxes

How to Use Your Tax Refund to Build Your Emergency Funds

By: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

During tax season, there’s a lot to think about. Do you have the right forms? Where did you put those receipts? Did you do the math right? But there’s one more thing you should be thinking about: how you can use your tax refund to ramp up your emergency funds or reach other savings goals.

In 2019, around 72% of Americans received a refund on their taxes. This extra jolt of cash can be a perfect opportunity to start—or increase—your emergency savings funds.

Why save your tax refund

Your tax refund may be one of the biggest checks you receive all year. If you’re getting a tax refund, consider saving some or all of it. Putting your refund into savings can help you prepare for unforeseen expenses throughout the year, and work toward longer term savings goals such as buying a house or paying for college.

For many people, making ends meet throughout the year is tough, and saving regularly may seem unrealistic. The money you get in your tax refund could help you build or replenish your rainy day fund. Setting aside money for emergencies may help you cover some of the most common unexpected expenses people experience. Without savings, a financial emergency–even minor–could have a lasting impact on your financial well-being.

How to save money fast

Here are four things to do to save your refund as quickly and securely as possible.

1. Plan ahead

It’s likely that you already have plans for what to do with your refund—many people do. But, if you can plan to save part of your refund, even just a small amount, it could help you down the road when an emergency occurs, or you need a little extra cash to meet a financial goal.

Make a plan to save some of your tax refund, and then use this worksheet to help you make the most of your tax refund.

2. File electronically

The fastest way to receive your tax refund is to file your taxes electronically. If you file your tax returns electronically using e-file, you will likely receive your tax refund within 21 days. However, if you file your taxes by mail, it can take about six weeks to receive your tax refund. Filing your taxes electronically will also help protect you from tax fraud since you aren’t sending sensitive information through the mail.

If you need assistance filing your taxes, and meet the qualifications, you can get free tax preparation assistance from IRS-certified volunteers at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or a Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) location. The IRS locator tool will help you find a VITA site near you.

Learn more about filing your tax returns.

3. Use direct deposit

Receiving your tax return as a direct deposit is faster than getting a paper check in the mail, and it ensures that the money is saved safely and automatically.

4. Deposit some, or all, of your refund into your savings account

The IRS allows you to deposit your refund into up to three different accounts. You can automatically deposit portions of your tax refund into checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement accounts, mutual funds, or U.S. Savings Bonds. If you are filing electronically you can even purchase a savings bond while you are filing your tax return.

Other special accounts where you can automatically save some or all of your refund include:

Check with the IRS for more information on direct deposit and splitting your refund.

Affordable ways to file your taxes

Before you have your refund, you need to file your taxes. Be mindful that unemployment benefits may be taxable.

See if you qualify for free tax filing

You can receive free tax preparation assistance at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You have an income of $56,000 or less
  • You are 60 years old or older
  • You have a disability
  • You speak limited English

If your income is $69,000 or less, you can use most major tax preparation software to file your taxes for free through the IRS Free File Alliance.

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families can use the free online tax prep and e-filing program MilTax.

If you don’t qualify for free filing assistance

If your income is more than $69,000, you can still download free tax filing forms from the IRS.

While paying someone to file your taxes for you is convenient, there are plenty of affordable tax preparation software products that can walk you through the process of filing your taxes. Consider using one of these if you are uncomfortable filling out the forms on your own, but don’t want to pay a tax preparer to do it for you.

Protect yourself from tax fraud

Scammers like to take advantage of tax time to go after unsuspecting Americans. Follow these tips to protect yourself from tax fraud.

Be aware of scam phone calls. The IRS will never:

  • Call or email you to ask for personal information.
  • Demand immediate payment without first sending you a bill in the mail and giving you an opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for taxes, like a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit card information over the phone.
  • Threaten to have you arrested for not paying.

If any of these things happen to you, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at treasury.gov/tigta.

File electronically and request that your refund be deposited directly into your account.

Use ID theft prevention measures. Don’t carry your social security card with you and don’t give it out just because a business or professional asks for it. Also, don’t carry your Medicare card unless you’re going to a doctor for the first time.

Check your credit report. You can review your credit report for free every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com, or by calling 877-322-8228.

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft and it involves your income tax return, the IRS has more information and help on suspected fraud.

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Activities, Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, College Debt, Community, Consumer, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Debt Settlement, Economy, Finance, Goals, Holiday Tips, Money Management, National Debt, Personal Goals, Saving, Student Loans, Taxes

Managing Your Student Loans Wisely: A Great and Unique Gift for Mother’s Day

By: Brittany Frost

What greater gift is there than the joy of seeing your child become financially responsible and independent throughout and after their college years? If you are looking for a unique and great gift to give your mother on May 8th for Mother’s Day this year, consider the gift of managing your student loans wisely. Instead of spending money on the gift, you’ll be saving it. Managing your student loans during and after college can help you avoid extra costs and interest as well as reduce your overall debt. Saving money and achieving your financial goals is not only a great gift to the mothers who are able to contribute to their child’s education, but also for the mothers who so desperately want to help but don’t have the means to do so. Here are a few tips to manage your student loans wisely this Mother’s Day:

 

• Before you even take out a student loan, apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. This alone can save you (and your mom) a lot of money. Visit your school’s website or www.studentaid.ed.gov to view federal grants and scholarships.

• If you still need a loan, research loan types and repayment plans to make an informed decision. In general, federal student loans can have more repayment options and lower interest rates than private student loans. For more information on federal student loans and repayment plans as well as budgeting resources and calculators, visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.

• Budget and plan ahead. For more help budgeting for your student loans, contact Christian Credit Counselors at www.christiancreditcounselors.org.

• Use other free resources. According to the recent article Baylor University Partners with iGrad to Implement Online Financial Literacy Education Initiative by Jo-Carolyn Goode, Baylor will team up with iGrad, a financial literacy leader, to offer interactive workshops about budgets, scholarships, student loans, applying for jobs to help students pay for school, and a seminar for seniors to discuss loan payment options after graduation through iGrad’s financial literacy platform. For more information, visit www.igrad.com.

• When repaying your loan, consider an automatic payment deduction to save money on your payment. Also, put as much money as you can toward your payments. Each extra dollar paid toward your student loan payment each month can help overall.

• Since it is tax season, remember that student loan interest is tax-deductible and there are credits and deductions for parents and students. According to the College Board in Danielle Douglas-Gabriel’s article in the Washington Post entitled Paying for college? Have student loans? Here’s what you need to know before filing your taxes, the average family saved about $1,460 in education credits and deductions in 2013. To research various options of increasing your savings through tax credits and deductions such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Student Loan Interest Deduction, refer to www.irs.gov. See how much you can save!

By using these tips and managing your student loans responsibly, you will not only save money but you will provide valuable peace of mind for you and your mother. That’s something that you won’t be able to buy at the Hallmark store!

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Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, Consumer, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Finance, Goals, Holiday Tips, Money Management, Personal Goals, Saving, Taxes, Uncategorized

Ditching Debt in the New Year

skTo learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here.

 

[column type=”two-thirds” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px”]Dear Chuck:

I know that getting out of debt is a great New Year’s resolution (I’m willing to try that one again!) but do you have any advice on something else that I should prioritize?

Looking for a New Idea.

Dear New Idea,

First, Happy New Year! This is a great question since most resolutions involve getting in better shape physically or fiscally (financially — may be a better word here)!

My encouragement is to keep this as your top priority as it is likely the best financial move you can make. You should also work to establish an Emergency Savings account.[/column]

 

[column type=”one-third” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px”]chuck-bentley[/column]

 

I have an idea that could kill two birds with one proverbial stone — this year get your taxes organized as quickly as possible so that you can file in January and put that money to work for you. The fact is, most of us are giving the government an interest free loan by having our withholding too high. We don’t realize that when we get that refund check, that money — which could have been working for you — has been sitting with Uncle Sam waiting for you to ask him to mail it back to you.

The average tax refund is more than $3,100, a good start on debt reduction in the New Years. You can file your taxes by mid-January, and if you file on-line, a refund won’t be far behind.

To get started, gather your tax records, and look through your finances for potential deductions. You can find some great tax tips from Crown here. One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you are a Do-It-Yourself tax preparers, whether you want to hire an accountant, or, like a good friend of mine in personal finance, do all of the above. You can save a little money by preparing your own taxes first and then having a professional take a look for a smaller fee. Your legwork can lead to savings.

With the help of tax filing software, filing your own taxes is a good idea if you keep good records and don’t have a complicated return. There are a number of good firms that help you to file on-line. We prefer 1040.com since we share the same values. But there are a number of others such as TurboTax, H&R Block or even an easy file process at IRS.gov.

Be aware that you will likely need to file a long form tax return if you’ve experienced a major life event, such as whether you got divorced or married, received an inheritance, came into some unexpected money, adopted a child or moved for work. File the long form if you own a business, have unusual deductions, or need to manage assets, especially if they are in multiple states.

Once you get your taxes filed and your refund is in your hand, if you have not previously tithed on this income, I recommend that you do so off your refund check. Then be sure to fully fund an emergency savings account, if you haven’t already. At Crown, we counsel people to first have an emergency fund of at least $1,000. If you need help in learning how to create a budget that includes tithing, click here, to see how to organize one.

But next, take that refund and get started on your resolution to get out debt. Try the debt snowball method and start by paying off the most expensive debt first. That is usually the credit card charging you the highest interest rate. Then work your way to the next debt using the money you are now saving by paying off the first debt completely. This will allow you to develop a snowball effect! Crown has many free resources to help you on your journey to becoming debt free, but if you need a debt management counselor to help you one-on-one, you can contact our friends at Christian Credit Counselors a non-profit organization that helps individuals consolidate and develop a plan to pay off your debt.

You’ll start your New Year better able to financially handle what comes next. It is certainly a guaranteed method to reduce stress!

 

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/new-year-money-finances-debt-free-tax-refund-154178/#27TgH38iwppMJpKj.99

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Budgeting, Credit Counseling, Debt, Finance, Money Management, Taxes, Uncategorized

Tackling the Fear of Filing Taxes

Tackling the Fear of Filing Taxes

The holidays are over, a new year has begun, and now we are rolling into February: a month that brings Valentine’s Day to mind. Some people look forward to receiving candy hearts while others dread spending Valentine’s Day alone. However, getting snubbed by Cupid isn’t the only thing people dread in February. They also are very apprehensive about filing their taxes. How do you get started? How much money will you get back? How much will you owe? It’s enough to cause your stress level to skyrocket. Luckily, there are some things you can do to take the sting out of filing your taxes:

 

[column type=”one-fourth” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” ]dreadingtaxes[/column]

[column type=”three-fourths” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” last=”true”]

  • File your taxes as soon as you can. The due date for filing this year is April 18th. It is usually April 15th but that falls on a federal holiday and a Friday, thus, the due date is moved to the next normal business day on Monday the 18th which gives you a few extra days to file. Now that January is over, you should have received most of your information, such as your W-2s, in the mail. If you absolutely cannot file by the due date, you may want to go to the IRS website to see if you can file for an extension.[/column]

 

  • Look at all of your preparation options. It’s not a bad idea to research national organizations with locations near you that may offer free tax preparation for individuals with certain income limits. For example, United Way Worldwide has a program available during tax season called  Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) that is sponsored by the IRS. Volunteers (such as retired CPAs) help families with a household income of under $53,000 prepare taxes for free, while another program helps you prepare your own taxes if your income is below $60,000 per year.
  • Research credits and deductions. There are some that could save you money which you may not know existed. For example, if you are eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit you would be able to claim a credit for expenses that you paid for child care so that you could work or look for work.
  • Make a plan for your tax refund or payment by creating/using a budget. Planning can drastically decrease stress and eliminate the temptation of unnecessary spending. If you get a refund, budget your money so you can tithe and achieve the priority of paying down debt. If you do not get a refund and you owe money, it is even more crucial to create a budget plan to pay the IRS. You have payment options. The best option, of course, is to budget and pay before the due date. If you cannot pay by the due date, there are options for payment plans. You may be eligible for an online payment agreement with the IRS. If not, you can still pay in installments by filing for an installment agreement (Form 9465). It is important to note that you must file all tax returns before applying for any payment agreement with the IRS. Also, keep in mind that if you do not pay by the due date you will be subject to penalties and interest. For more information on this and other payment options, visit www.irs.gov or contact the IRS directly.

 

Learning helpful tips like these, researching your options, and making a plan will help reduce the fear of filing your taxes, thus, allowing you to focus more on positivity, tranquility and love, no matter what month of the year it is.

 

Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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Taxes

The Social Security Tax Break and its Advantages

The Social Security Tax Break Facts

In December President Obama signed a Social Security tax break into law. This was good news, because it reduced the amount of Social Security tax taken out of workers’ pay, meaning an increase in a worker’s take-home pay. This doesn’t apply to everyone, and is only for one year, but by dropping the Social Security tax rate to 4.2% instead of the original 6.2% people below the pay cap, $106, 800, can see some extra money coming in.

For more information about tax breaks read Carla Fried’s article here.

By now, workers’ who are affected by this should have seen the adjustment in their pay. For example, for every $1,000 you earn in pay, instead of taking out $62 (6.2%), only $42 (4.2%) will be taken out. This tax break was meant to increase consumer spending but if you do notice this change, put the extra money to good use.

Paying Bills

First and foremost, use it to help pay off credit card debt or your current bills. Everyone is suffering from the economy, and with this little help from the tax break, people should use this extra money to their advantage. Pay off bills in full if you can, don’t settle for the minimum. Or if you are in debt, put as much money as you can toward that so you can pay it off sooner.

Increase Your Savings

Another way to utilize your additional income is to save it. When people receive a bonus or gift of cash, they usually spend it because they figure it is money they wouldn’t usually have. So don’t think of this tax break as a bonus or gift. Think of it as a start to a new savings account, or add it to your current savings account. Save it, and pretend like you never saw it. Don’t be tempted to spend, because you never know when you will need it for a rainy day.

These are the two most important ways to help in securing your financial future. I hope you take them into consideration and put that extra money to good use.

Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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