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Top 5 Tax Mistakes You Should Avoid

Top 5 Tax Mistakes You Should Avoid

As tax season approaches, you’ll want to make sure your finances are in order to properly report your income and expenses to the IRS. Unfortunately, a lot of households make the same mistakes–and they’re entirely avoidable!

Simple mistakes can lead to a tax audit. That means the IRS will double check that your individual account and tax information is correct. To avoid the headache of a tax audit, be sure to report your income and expenses properly the first time.

This starts by avoiding these common tax mistakes:

Choosing the wrong filing status

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    The IRS uses five different filing statuses to determine things like your correct tax rate, eligibility on certain credits, and your standard deduction. These filing statuses include:

    • Single
    • Married Filing Jointly
    • Married Filing Separately
    • Head of Household
    • Qualifying Widow(er)

    It’s not always easy to determine which filing status you should choose. For example, if you recently separated from your spouse but are still legally married, should you choose Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately? It’s also common for people to claim Head of Household when they do not meet the requirements.

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    The IRS can help with that. Take a quick five-minute survey, What is My Filing Status?, on the IRS website to ensure you’re filing correctly. Be sure to have the following items on hand:

    • Marital status
    • Spouse’s year of death (if applicable)
    • Percentage of costs your household members paid toward keeping up a home

    Failing to file taxes for household workers

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      One of the biggest mistakes individuals make is failing to file taxes for household workers. It’s not because people are trying to cheat the system, just that they are misinformed.

      If you pay household workers, such as nannies, home health aides, housekeepers, house managers, etc., over a certain amount each year, you are considered a domestic employer. The threshold changes each year as the national average wage index changes.

      According to the IRS, the threshold for 2015 is set at $1,900, but will increase to $2,000 in 2016. That means that if you paid your household workers more than $1,900 in 2015, you will have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. These rates are currently at 6.2 percent for Social Security and 1.45 percent for Medicare.

      Homeowners often misclassify domestic workers as independent contractors. Making this mistake may lead to fines and imprisonment. Independent contractors set their own hours, supply their own tools/machinery, and offer services to the general public. If this does not sound like your workers, do not send them a 1099! This point is incredibly important: don’t let someone tell you that you can just pay your domestic workers with cash–this is illegal! The IRS has clear guidelines for what a domestic worker is and if you fail to pay their taxes properly, you could face fines and penalties.

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      Talk to your accountant or a domestic taxes expert if you suspect workers, like your nanny, fall into this “household worker” category. Be sure to provide your financial records and payment information to ensure your taxes are filed accurately.

      Failing to report additional income

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        Too often individuals report only what they see on their W-2s and 1099s. However, you may have income from other sources that aren’t on these forms. By law, you still have to report it.

        This can include income like tips, self-employment income, income from rental properties, etc.

        Not only is this mistake avoidable if you’re proactive and keep track of your income, but omitting any additional income from your tax forms can result in fees and other penalties from the IRS.

        Claiming ineligible dependents

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          Claiming dependents on your taxes gives you certain exemptions that will lower how much you have to pay. It is common for individuals to misinterpret what is meant by “dependent.” For example, you can claim children and relatives as dependents, but you can’t claim your spouse.

          A dependent is someone you support financially, usually a child or relative that lives with you.

          Unfortunately, the rules for claiming someone is often misunderstood. For instance, if someone can claim you or your spouse (if filing jointly) as dependents on their tax return, you cannot claim someone else as a dependent. This is true whether or not the person actually claims you.

          For example, if you live with your parents and also have your own child, your parents may be able to claim you as a dependent. In that case, you can’t claim your child on your tax return.

          You can claim dependents if:

          1. They are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, resident alien, or resident of Canada or Mexico. The only exception is for adopted children.
          2. The dependent is not married or filing jointly.
          3. The dependent is a Qualifying Child or Qualifying Relative according to the IRS.

          If you’re unsure, visit the IRS website and take a short survey, Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

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          Be sure to have the following items on-hand:

          • Marital status, relationship to dependent, and amount of support you provided them.
          • Income information, including your adjusted gross income.
          • Terms of a multiple support agreement you may have for the dependent.

          Making mistakes on paper tax forms

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            While taxes were once filed exclusively through paper forms, the Internet has made filing taxes easier than ever. The benefit to filing electronically is that the system can check for miscalculations or mistakes, like forgetting to sign your name. Unfortunately, the IRS won’t even accept returns that aren’t signed, and making a single math mistake can cost you, either in a reduced refund or in various fees.

            It’s tough to catch mistakes like this with the human eye, but they can be easily mitigated when you eFile through the IRS.

            Tax season can be stressful for both individuals and accountants. However, you can relieve some of that stress by paying attention to these common mistakes. That way, you know you’re not headed down a path toward incurring fees, penalties, and even jail time. If at any point you’re unsure of what’s expected of you or whether you qualify for certain categories or not, talk to a professional to get expert advice on your personal situation.

            photo credit: Pinterest

            Featured photo credit: El Nariz via thumb9.shutterstock.com

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            Kathleen Webb

            Co-Founder, HomeWork Solutions

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            Last Updated on February 11, 2021

            Want to Get Free Product Samples Like Bloggers and Beauty Gurus Do? Read This.

            Want to Get Free Product Samples Like Bloggers and Beauty Gurus Do? Read This.

            Imagine receiving a regular supply of free samples through your letterbox?

            These free samples by mail could include things such as cleaning products, cosmetics and packaged food.

            Free samples are a great way to try out some of the latest products. One week you may have a new toothpaste to try – the next week you may be snacking on a delicious chocolate cookie sample.

            As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. And by requesting free samples by mail (I’ll show you how shortly), you’ll have not just variety – but fun too!

            Tell Me More About Getting Free Samples Sent to My Door!

            So, it looks like I’ve caught your interest. That’s great news!

            Just before I introduce you to 10 places where you can get free samples by mail, let me clarify a couple of things.

            Firstly, all the places I’ll talk about are currently active in sending out free samples to consumers. (In other words, no links to out-of-date or dead pages!)

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            Secondly, location is key. If you live in North America, then you’ll have a wide selection of places to sign up to. In other locations (for example, Africa, Asia and Europe), you’ll have fewer choices – but free samples by mail are still a possibility.

            Lastly, to whet your appetite for the freebies, here’s a short list of product examples:

            • Pet food.
            • Beauty products.
            • T-shirts.
            • Greeting cards.
            • Wallets.
            • Snack bars.
            • Vitamins.

            Free Samples by Mail… Tell Me Where to Get Them!

            It’s now time to share my recommendations for the best sites to claim free samples from.

            Let’s start with…

            #1 SampleSource

              This company sends out boxes of 6-12 free samples about four times a year. Products include baby wipes, cereals and tissues. Register with SampleSource to be notified of the availability of their free samples. (Canada and U.S. only.)

              #2 Influenster

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                As their name suggests, Influenster wants to send free samples to you in exchange for you sharing about the products on your social media accounts. Once you’ve become a member (join for free!), they’ll send you a box of free goodies every few months. The more you share pictures and reviews of the products – the more free samples they’ll send you! (All major territories.)

                #3 PINCHme

                  This organization will send you free samples in the hope that you’ll then go out and buy the equivalent full-size products. To receive regular boxes of free food, drink and cosmetic samples (and sometimes coupons), then sign up and create your profile. (U.S. only.)

                  #4 House Party

                    Thinking of throwing a house party? If yes, then be sure to sign up with this company. They’ll send you a box of ‘themed’ products and services that you can hand out at your party. Register with House Party. Wait for the fun freebies to be mailed to you. And then start sending out your party invites! (Worldwide.)

                    #5 YoFreeSamples

                      This site is a great resource for a whole host of free samples that can be mailed directly to your door (with no survey requirements!). You’ll find anything from books to perfume, with new offers listed daily. Head over to their site to see what’s currently available. (Mostly U.S., with occasional offers for other countries.)

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                      #6 Magic Freebies

                        The U.K.’s most popular freebie site. Register for their email newsletter, and they’ll send you a daily email with eight free sample offers. These include products such as disposable razors, dog bowls, and even fake tan! So, what are you waiting for? (U.K. only.)

                        #7 SweetFreeStuff

                          Since 2002, this simple site has been linking to the best free sample offers currently available. To get started, sign up to their daily email newsletter, which contains links to the latest offers. As well as free samples, SweetFreeStuff also gives information on coupons and deals. (Worldwide.)

                          #8 Sample A Day

                            Would you like to receive a notification of a new free sample every day? Well, that’s the promise from this site. They claim to thoroughly research all offers, ensuring there are no catches or hidden surveys! From baby products to socks, this site is sure to have something for you. Registration is super-easy. Simply enter your email address. (Australia, Canada, U.K. and U.S. only.)

                            #9 Pretty Thrifty

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                              This site specializes in free beauty products, but also lets you claim free samples such as energy drinks, snack bars, and even magazine subscriptions. Pretty Thrifty has more than 85,000 followers on social media, so clearly knows how to attract free sample hunters. One thing that makes Pretty Thrifty stand out from most of their competitors, is that their email newsletter is available in daily, weekly and monthly formats. (Mostly U.S., with occasional offers for other countries.)

                              #10 CrazyFree

                                My final tip for getting the best free samples by mail, is Australian company CrazyFree. Their funky website offers big brand free sample offers, which currently include items such as Dolce & Gabbana perfume, Coke Zero, and Happy Dog pet food. To claim the offers, select the free samples you would like, and then complete their registration form. (Australia, U.K. and U.S. only.)

                                Receiving regular free samples by mail is a fabulous way of testing out the latest products on the market (and some that aren’t even on the market yet!)

                                You’ll impress your friends and family with all the free stuff you’ll be receiving. And take it from me… it’s a fun, free and rewarding hobby.

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