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Everyone Who Does Taxes For The First Time Should Know These

Everyone Who Does Taxes For The First Time Should Know These

Like Voldemort from Harry Potter, the word “taxes” should not be The Thing That Must Not Be Named. We should not live in fear of the 15th of April like it’s some plague or judgment day. True, it may feel intimidating the first time you are forced to sit down and complete your taxes on your own. We’ve all been there and, yes, felt your pain.

However, taxes shouldn’t be the bane of your existence. With some planning and premeditation, doing your taxes should be manageable. After all, however you look at it, you will have to file your taxes every year. So do it right and follow these 10 need to know tips to complete your taxes without hyperventilating.

1. Nobody will remind you to do them.

Throughout the year, you should be saving pay stubs, tax returns, and other files and documentation. Let’s face it, filing taxes is not a one and done deal; it’s an ongoing process. Therefore, the government is not going to send you a little friendly reminder letter in the mail like your dentist does for an upcoming appointment. As soon as you begin to receive W2s from your employer, you should being filing your taxes. Don’t wait until the last minute, unless you want to be sweating bullets.

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2. You need to double check everything.

Okay, the truth is, taxes do take a while in order to be completed properly. It requires focus, retrieval of papers and documentation, and reading the directions carefully. At times, the forms may seem a bit repetitive, but make sure you use the examples and directions to help you complete each section. Also, double check everything, especially your name and your math. This not only saves you from a load of extra paperwork, but it will also help ensure that you don’t get flagged for tax fraud.

3. Have your papers organized before you start.

Find a filing and organization system that works for you. Don’t expect to just bring a heap of papers along with you to sift through and have it done in a half hour. Instead, make sure you are keeping your information organized throughout the year to make filing your taxes a lot less stressful. Try using a hanging filing folder system with labeled tabs of all of your paperwork. Or, invest in a filing cabinet or accordion folder system. Just make sure to be consistent. The IRS suggests keeping your records for seven years before discarding any documentation. With all that paperwork, don’t let your files become an unorganized heap.

4. Save some money to file them early.

Set aside money and file early just in case you may owe a lot of money to the IRS. This way, you won’t be blindsided by owing any unexpected large sums. Also, you can save money and get more on your return by filing any charitable contributions and avoid accrued interest on your taxes. Plus, you’ll receive your refund faster. Just make sure you have enough budgeted for these extra costs and money needed if you choose to seek out an accountant or program to file your taxes for you.

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5. Online tax programs don’t know everything.

It’s great to file online through step-by-step programs like TurboTax or TaxAct. Yet, they don’t always know about your individual tax exceptions and needs. Every person is different and you may have some questions that are beyond what the program can provide for you. Save some money and find an accountant who can help you through your unique tax filing. A tax preparer works specifically for the IRS and will cost between $150-$450, depending on your situation. Or, you can use a retail tax company like H&R Block for quick and easy filing. Just make sure you invest your time into finding one that suits your needs. It will be worth it in the long run.

6. Filing jointly is a little easier.

If you are married, filing jointly is a great way to guarantee the largest standard deduction from the IRS each year. You can also qualify for many taxes credits, including the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credit, and the Earned Tax Income Credit. Plus, you only need to submit your taxes once together.

Ultimately, it’s better to file jointly. According to Turbo Tax, “In 2013, married filing separately taxpayers only receive a standard deduction of $6,100 compared to the $12,200 offered to those who filed jointly.” Therefore, if you are married, look to filing jointly to get the best tax breaks.

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7. File as early as possible if you need financial aid.

If you file early, you have the best potential of receiving the maximum amount of financial aid. The IRS makes this easy to do, because there is a link from the FAFSA form to the IRS, meaning you don’t have to provide your tax information by yourself. Be proactive, invest in your future, and get the most out of your education and your tax money.

8. You can submit corrections if you make a mistake.

Remember that we are only human and “to err is human”. So, you flubbed up a number or missed a step in filing your taxes. Something looks off. Don’t freak out; a 1040X file is your saving grace. It’s important to make your corrections rather than wait for the IRS to find them. A simple mistake typically won’t give you a large penalty, but it can cause accrued interest on the correct amount. Just know that it’s okay if you need to make a change.

9. You can write off student loan interest.

You can get a tax break and deduct $2,500 or the amount of interest you paid on your student loans. It’s considered an adjustment to your income, so you don’t have to itemize all of it.

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See what qualifies as a student loan adjustment and enjoy the fact that all of your money spent on your education is to good use and can help with your tax break.

10. You can credit your refund to next year.

Don’t always think that you have to spend your refund cash on anything right away. Instead, use it as an investment and put your money in a separate account in case you owe money next year when filing taxes. Or, you can place this money in a retirement fund and receive more money off next year’s income tax. The choice is yours, just choose responsibly.

Take a deep breath.

When you invest the time in filing your taxes and prepare all year, you really are investing in yourself and your money. If you want something done well, do it right. If you are still unsure about how to approach taxes, a good bet is to spend the money and seek someone who knows what’s best for you and your interests. Don’t be overwhelmed by the “big” 5-letter word; taxes aren’t that scary, as long as you don’t procrastinate.

Featured photo credit: Tax/401(K) 201 via flickr.com

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Kayla Matthews

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Published on July 4, 2018

Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

Don’t want to overspend your budget, swipe your credit card too many times, and feel like a financial mess? Instead of beating yourself up for the bad financial decisions you’ve ever made, create a new plan!

The solution is simple, save more and spend less. But, we all know it’s easier said than done.

One problem is finding quality apps that save you time and money, and aren’t just hype.

Luckily, there’re many great money management apps available at your fingertips. Here are 10 reliable money management apps that can help you save money, and crush debt.

1. Personal Capital

    When was the last time you’ve tracked your net worth? Probably months ago or maybe never. Personal Capital allows you to easily track your net worth and plan for retirement.

    Here are some of its main features:

    • Sync many investment accounts, and expenses (mortgage, credit cards, etc.) in one place
    • Discover hidden fees and how much they’re affecting your retirement plan
    • Wealth management for investors requiring a long-term strategy

    With Personal you’re free to track your expenses and net worth.

    Available for: iOS and Android

    2. Mint

      If your smartphone could only install a few apps, Mint would be one of them. Why? Because Mint tracks all your balances and bills in one place.

      Here are some of its main features:

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      • Effortlessly track all your bills and balances in one dashboard
      • Categorized expenses to understand where you spend your money
      • Uncover hidden fees, and determine your investment style with sophisticated retirement tools.

      Feel at ease with managing your money by a reputable company that isn’t going anywhere.

      Available for: iOS and Android

      3. YNAB

        Everyone needs a budget, there’s no way around it. YNAB (You Need A Budget) is an easy to use app that will change the way you think about money. Their motto is to “give every dollar a job”, and you’ll quickly discover why.

        Here are some of its main features:

        • Easily sync all bank accounts in one place
        • Visually see your debt paying progress with eye-catching charts and notifications
        • Customized categories setting saving goals

        The best part about YNAB is the community that comes along with it. You can hop on the YNAB forum to receive support, listen to the YNAB Podcast or stay tuned for their weekly videos.

        Available for: iOS and Android

        4. Wealthfront

          Albert Einstein once said “compound interest is the eight wonder in the world”, and for a very good reason. The problem is, most people are scared or unwilling to learn the basics of investing. This is why Wealthfront is the perfect solution for the hands-off investors.

          Here are some of its main features:

          • Variety of investment account options including IRA, Roth IRA, and more
          • Your portfolio composed of 7 different asset classes
          • Automatically rebalanced portfolio
          • Daily tax loss harvesting

          Wealthfront is perfect for people requiring investment guidance, or prefer a hands-off solution.

          Available for: iOS and Android

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          5. Clarity Money

            If you’re staying on top of your budget but want to take your finances to the next level, Clarity Money can help you. Clarity Money helps you stay under budget and build a personalized savings plan.

            Here are some of its main features:

            • Easily cancel subscriptions with one click
            • Synchronize bank accounts fast
            • Transfer money effortlessly between different accounts

            Clarity Money isn’t an app that does it all. But, it does make transferring money and canceling subscriptions fast and efficient.

            Available for: iOS and Android

            6. Acorns

              What if there was a way to quickly gain confidence in investing your money, without too much risk? There is, and Acorns is your solution. With Acorns’s technology, you’re able to make investments as small as $5.

              Here are some of its main features:

              • Automatic contribution option
              • Customized portfolio tailored to your needs
              • Low management fees ranging from $1-$2 per month

              Stop wasting dollars on expensive coffee. Instead, invest them towards a brighter financial future.

              Available for: iOS and Android

              7. Albert

                Do you budget by only subtracting your expenses from your income? If so, how would you discover any overpayments or extra money you could save? This is where Albert shines, and it does it all free.

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                Here are some of its main features:

                • Receive notifications for overpayments, hidden fees, and low balances
                • An Automatic budget that’s built around your spending and income
                • Easily track debt and set new financial goals

                While Albert does offer a paid option, most of its core features are FREE. So, what better option to save?

                Available for: iOS

                8. Prism

                  Have you recently forgot to pay a bill because life got in the way? Prism automatically tracks your bills and syncs your bank accounts in one place.

                  Here are some of its main features:

                  • View all your account balances in one glance
                  • Bill due dates are automatically pulled and tracked
                  • Receive early reminders for upcoming bills

                  If your budget is on “fleek” but can’t seem to stay on top of your bills, Prism is your go-to app.

                  Available for: iOS, Android, Windows, Amazon

                  9. Mvelopes

                    Remember hearing about people using envelopes to budget their money? Well, Mvelopes is the new envelope system for this generation. Easily create monthly budgets and track your saving goals.

                    Here are some of its main features:

                    • Connect unlimited bank accounts
                    • Real-time budgeting with auto transaction syncing
                    • Low monthly $4 fee or $40 annual

                    Mvelopes can help you crush debt, save more, and help you stop overspending. With its low monthly fee, it’s worth a try.

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                    Available for: iOS and Android

                    10. Wallaby

                      Most people don’t have time to track their credit card’s changing rewards and interest rates. Because of this, you need help reaping the most of your credit card’s rewards. Wallaby is the app that will help you do just that.

                      Here are some of its main features:

                      • Automatic recommendations for the best credit card to use for each transaction
                      • A friendly user interface, displaying credit cards with their corresponding images
                      • Free to use

                      If you’re using the same credit card to make your purchases, you may be leaving money on the table. Give Wallaby a try if you’re ready to maximize your credit card’s rewards.

                      Available for: iOS and Android

                      Take control of your finances and experience financial freedom

                      Picture yourself staying on budget and saving more money than you’d ever imagined.

                      It took hard work and dedication but you’d finally learned how to manage your money. You have to start taking control of your spending and saving habits.

                      You now have a list of reliable apps that can help you build better money habits, what are you waiting for?

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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