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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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            Published on November 20, 2018

            The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

            The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

            The truth is, there are many “money saving guides” online, but most don’t cover the root issue for not saving.

            Once I’d discovered a few key factors that allowed me to save 10k in one year, I realized why most articles couldn’t help me. The problem is that even with the right strategies you can still fail to save money. You need to have the right systems in place and the right mindset.

            In this guide, I’ll cover the best ways to save money — practical yet powerful steps you can take to start saving more. It won’t be easy but with hard work, I’m confident you’ll be able to save more money–even if you’re an impulsive spender.

            Why Your Past Prevents You from Saving Money

            Are you constantly thinking about your financial mistakes?

            If so, these thoughts are holding you back from saving.

            I get it, you wish you could go back in time to avoid your financial downfalls. But dwelling over your past will only rob you from your future. Instead, reflect on your mistakes and ask yourself what lessons you can learn from them.

            It wasn’t easy for me to accept that I had accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Once I did, I started heading in the right direction. Embrace your past failures and use them as an opportunity to set new financial goals.

            For example, after accepting that you’re thousands of dollars in debt create a plan to be debt free in a year or two. This way when you’ll be at peace even when you get negative thoughts about your finances. Now you can focus more time on saving and less on your past financial mistakes.

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            How to Effortlessly Track Your Spending

            Stop manually tracking your spending.

            Leverage powerful analytic tools such as Personal Capital and these money management apps to do the work for you. This tool has worked for me and has kept me motivated to why I’m saving in the first place. Once you login to your Personal Capital dashboard, you’re able to view your net worth.

            When I’d first signed up with Personal Capital, I had a negative net worth, but this motivated me to save more. With this tool, you can also view your spending patterns, expenses, and how much money you’re saving.

            Use your net worth as your north star to saving more. Whenever you experience financial setbacks, view how far you’ve come along. Saving money is only half the battle, being consistent is the other half.

            The Truth on Why You Keep Failing

            Saving money isn’t sexy. If it was, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

            Some people are natural savers, but most are impulsive spenders. Instead of denying that you’re an impulsive spender, embrace it.

            Don’t try to save 60 to 70% of your income if this means you’ll live a miserable life. Saving money isn’t a race but a marathon. You’re saving for retirement and for large purchases.

            If you’re currently having a hard time saving, start spending more money on nice things. This may sound counterintuitive but hear me out. Wouldn’t it be better to save $200 each month for 12 months instead of $500 for 3 months?

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            Most people run into trouble because they create budgets that set them up for failure. This system won’t work for those who are frugal, but chances are they don’t need help saving. This system is for those who can’t save money and need to be rewarded for their hard work.

            Only because you’re buying nice things doesn’t mean that you’ll save less. Here are some rules you should have in place:

            1. Save more than 50% of your available money (after expenses)
            2. Only buy nice things after saving
            3. Automate your savings with automatic bank transfers

            These are the same rules that helped me save thousands each year while buying the latest iPhone. Focus only on items that are important to you. Remember, you can afford anything but not everything.

            How to Foolproof Yourself out of Debt

            Personal finance is a game. On one end, you’re earning money; and on the to other, you’re saving. But what ends up counting in the end isn’t how much you earn but how much you save. Research shows that about 60% of Americans spend more than they save.[1]

            So how can you separate yourself from the 60%?

            By not accumulating more debt. This way you’ll have more money to save and avoid having more financial obligations. A great way to stop accumulating debt is using cash to pay for all your transactions.

            This will be challenging, depending on how reliant you are with your credit card, but it’s worth the effort. Not only will you stop accruing debt, but you’ll also be more conscious with what you buy.

            For example, you’ll think twice about purchasing a new $200 headphone despite having the cash to buy them. According to a poll conducted by The CreditCards.com, 5 out of 6 Americans are impulsive spenders.[2]

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            Telling yourself that you’ll have the discipline to not buy things won’t cut it. This is equal to having junk food in your fridge while trying to eat healthy–it’s only a matter of time before you slip. By using cash to make your purchases, you’ll spend less and save more.

            A Proven Formula to Skyrocket Your Savings

            Having proven systems in place to help you save more is important, but they’re not the best way to save money.

            You can search for dozens of ways to save money, but there’ll always be a limit. Instead of spending the majority of your effort saving, look for ways to increase your income. The truth is that once you have the right systems in place, saving is easy.

            What’s challenging is earning more money. There are many routes you can take to achieve this. For example, you can work long and hard at your current job to earn a raise. But there’s one problem–you’re depending on someone else to give you a raise.

            Your company will have to have the budget, and you’ll have to know how to toot your own horn to get this raise. This isn’t to say that earning a raise is impossible, but things are better when you’re in control right? That’s why building a side-hustle is the best way to increase your income.

            Think of your side-hustle as a part-time job doing something you enjoy. You can sell items on eBay for a profit, or design websites for small businesses. Building a side-hustle will be on the hardest things you’ll do, be too stubborn to quit.

            During the early stages, you won’t be making money and that’s okay. Since you already have a source of income, you won’t be dependent on your side-hustle to pay for your expenses. Depending on how much time you invest in your side-hustle, it can one day replace your current income.

            Whatever route you take, focus more on earning and save as much as possible. You have more control than you give yourself credit for.

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            Transform Yourself into a Saving Money Machine

            Saving money isn’t complicated but it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do.

            By learning from your mistakes and rewarding yourself after saving you’ll save more. What would you do with an extra $200 or $500 each month? To some, this is life-changing money that can improve the quality of their lives.

            The truth is saving money is an art. Save too much and you’ll quit, but save too little and you’ll pay for the consequences in the future. Saving money takes effort and having the right systems in place.

            Imagine if you’d started saving an extra $100 this next month? Or, saved $20K in one year? Although it’s hard to imagine, this can be your reality if you follow the principles covered in this guide.

            Take a moment to brainstorm which goals you’d be able to reach if you had extra money each month. Use these goals as motivation to help you stay on track on your journey to saving more. If I was able to save thousands of dollars with little guidance, imagine what you’ll be able to do.

            What are you waiting for? Go and start saving money, the sky is your limit.

            Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

            Reference

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