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What To Do With Your Tax Refund

Tax season is here and while there will be a lot of hair pulling; nail biting, and headaches, for some there will be a bright spot at the end of it all with the potential for a tax return. The big question is: what to do with that extra cash? Have some extra money is always an exciting thought, sometimes you just can’t wait to get that tax return check in the mail.

If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like waiting around to get your hard earned money back from the government, you should check out the tax loans that Check City is offering right now. Whether you get a tax loan or wait for you check to come in the mail, here are some ideas of how you can use that tax refund wisely (and still have some fun)!

Pay off those Debts

First things first, get out from under your debt. You may or may not be able to pay off all your debts with your tax refund, but using that tax-back money to ease the burden will certainly lift your spirits. If it’s hard to dedicate that money to something as practical as paying your debts, try not to think of your tax return as a “bonus” of sorts, but rather think of it as a debt-break from the government. Having the right mindset can make all the difference.

Save For Retirement

If you’re starting to put on a few years, there’s nothing wrong with starting to save up for retirement. Whether it’s putting money in the bank or investing, that tax refund can bloom over the years and create a nice financial cushion for your future.

Rainy Day or Mad Money

Saving is always a good idea. If you need a little financial backup, shuttle that tax refund into your savings account and forget about it. When those rainy days come you’ll be prepared! You really never know what is going to happen and having a solid savings account can make all the difference in an emergency.

Invest in Yourself

If you could use a more steady income, consider using the money you get back from your taxes for a trade class. Pick up a skill or hobby that can either get you ahead in your career or develop into some kind of side-income. Learn to carve, paint, sculpt, bake, design, or photograph and once you get good enough, sell your products or services. It’s a great way to make a little money go a long way!

Donate

If you feel financially comfortable, consider donating some of your funds to a good cause. Fund research, help the homeless, save the whales, or invest in whatever cause you wish. It’s a little way for you to give back and make a difference (however great or small) in your community, or the world.

Have Some Fun

If you took care of any financial needs and still have some cash to spare, there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun. Buy something you need around the house. Or buy something a want you’ve had an eye on over the years. Take a family vacation or treat yourself out to a night on the town. Your options are endless. Just make sure you don’t over-spend and put yourself into a worse financial situation than before you got your tax refund back. Just be sensible and spend wisely.

The list of fun things or good investments runs on. What ways have you spent your tax refund in the past? What do you plan on doing with yours this year? Share your ideas with us below!

How to Save on your Taxes

It’s that wonderful time of year again; when you pull out old receipts and bank statements in preparation for calculating and paying your taxes for the last year. Usually, doing your taxes can be a bit of a pain, not to mention sorrowful as you total up how much money you’re handing over to the government. If you have ever wondered how you can save on your taxes, look through this list of suggestions.

Reduce Taxable Income

One of the most straightforward ways that you can reduce your tax bill is by limiting your taxable income. An easy way to do this is starting a retirement plan, like a 401(k). The money you contribute into a savings plan does not count as taxable income, which can help you out tax-wise depending on how much you add every year. If you don’t have a retirement plan, consider putting some of your money in an IRA, which will usually become, at least in part, tax deductible.

Flex Plans

A flex plan is a medical reimbursement account that you can use to hold your money until you need it to pay for medical bills. The plus side is that the portion of your salary that is absorbed into this account is then free from both income and Social Security taxes. If your employer offers you a flex plan, consider taking advantage of it.

Be Earth Conscious

The government offers various tax breaks for citizens who fit both energy-efficient home improvements and alternative energy equipment to their house. This includes new windows, doors, skylights, insulation, solar electric systems, solar hot water heaters, geothermal heating systems, and wind power systems. So if you are thinking of making some renovations to your home, look into some of the greener options to possibly qualify for big tax breaks.

Save for College

If you have children, putting money aside for their college tuition can be a great way to save on taxes, if you go about it the right way. Using a state-sponsored college savings account can render the added money exempt from taxes, while letting you maintain control. Also consider using a Roth IRA. While many people associate an IRA account with retirement, a Roth IRA lets you withdraw the funds at any time, without penalties or taxes, which is just fine for storing future college funds. An added incentive is the fact that Roth IRA accounts can provide steady annual growth, increasing your investment over the course of your child’s formative years.

Hire your Children

If you are in a position to hire your kids to work for you, doing so can have great tax advantages. You are legally able to deduct what you pay them, shifting some of your taxable income over to them. Keep in mind that if your child is under 18, he or she is not required to pay Social Security tax on the earnings.

Tax season is never fun, but it becomes a bit more satisfying when you see that you have made a savings on your taxes in the past year. If you still have questions about doing your taxes this year, hit us up on twitter or facebook or visit one of our many locations.

Getting Organized for Tax Season

In a world where very little is agreed upon, almost everyone can come to the consensus that tax season is a time to dread. There are so many papers, receipts, and slips that need to be gathered at tax season and that can be a drag.
But, if you stay on top of organization throughout the year, you can decrease your tax time stress and feel much more relaxed as the New Year begins. This year as you contemplate the looming tax season and the seasons to come, take action and get your tax-related documents in order and in gear.

Keep Track of Everything

Keeping track of the many different items you will need in order to file your taxes is also important. From forms, to receipts, to the many other documents you need, it is important to get them together early, so you can be sure that you are prepared for this tax season, and to prepare your taxes every year.

The kinds of forms and documents you will need will vary based on your personal financial situation. This situation could vary based on your employment status (employed, unemployed, self-employed, student), your investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds), properties you own (rentals, trusts, vacation homes), and many other factors.

Make it a Habit

The most important thing when it comes to staying organized for the tax season is to create a habit. This means that you should get used to putting your tax documents in a safe place as soon as you find them so you can be prepared for every tax season, this year and in the years to come.

It is also a good idea to keep a physical and virtual filing cabinet, so you can have a place for each of your tax documents. This way, you can make a place for each of you different tax needs, from donations and deductions to receipts, W2s, and other important forms. By making a habit of putting documents into their appropriate locations, you will be able to make the tax season much more joyful for you and your tax professional.

This habit of organizing your financial and tax-related documents will also be useful as you try to stay more financially independent in general. If you have easy and organized access to all of your financial materials, you will be able to look to your own files to check against bank records in case of trouble or a mistake.

Stay Organized, Save Time

Once you have organized all of your materials, you will find that the tax season is able to move much more smoothly. And the more time you spend organizing, the less time you will have to spend searching through documents and trying to find the right places for the right things when tax season comes along.

This organization will also help the season be much less overwhelming as you will be able to approach your tax professional with a neat and orderly stack of documents. So start today and get your tax documents together to make the weeks to come much more pleasant!

How to do Your Taxes if You Never Received Your W2

Taxes are a headache for most people, but when you are one of the unlucky Americans who will not receive their Form W-2 this year from their employer then taxes can become an unbearable migraine. While dealing with a missing W-2 will be more difficult than if your employer sent it out like they were supposed to, it does not mean that tax evasion or giving up on your return this year are your only options.

Not Sure? Go Ask!

There are multiple avenues for people in your situation to pursue to file taxes legally and eventually receive the long awaited tax return. Frist and foremost, if you are worried that your employer has not sent out your W-2, go ask.
Head down to your employer’s payroll office or ask for contact information to the payroll office if such things are outsourced by your company, and request that they send you your W-2. Chances are that they are simply late getting the forms in the mail or they have the wrong address on your record.

Check the Address

Be sure to inform them of your current address or an address you will be able to safely receive the form in the mail and if they have already sent out your W-2 to an old or incorrect address you may have to do some hunting. Simply go to the address where they sent the W-2 and ask if the current residents have spotted it in the mail; because, more often than not, when people see the words “important tax information enclosed” and it is not addressed to them they are smart enough and kind enough to hold on to it or return it to the sender.

Filing Tax Returns Without a W-2

So, here is the scenario: you have done all you can on your end to get your employer to send a replacement W-2 (or maybe just the original form if they are super late in getting them out), and you still do not have the form, which means you cannot file for a return, which means you will not get a return. Are you simply stuck at this point? NO!

Should all else fail and traditional methods of receiving your W-2 from your employer have bombed (i.e. they are no longer in business, have filed bankruptcy, or simply are not getting you your tax forms to you) then there are still actions you can take. First, alert the IRS that you have not been able to receive your W-2 and they will walk you through the process of how to proceed (along with sending your employer a friendly reminder from the federal government to get with the program); to do this you will need information from your last paystub including your wages, deducted taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes paid from your earnings, your company’s name, address, and employer identification number.

The IRS will also send you a Form 4852, which is a substitute for Form W-2 and will allow you to file your tax return even without the standard W-2. If contacting the IRS about your problem becomes itself a major issue (as contacting any federal agency can be pain) then you can go straight to the IRS website and download Form 4852 for yourself.

When filling out a 4852 you will need all the information that would have been on your W-2, generally found on old paystubs, as well as additional information outlining why you are filing with a 4852 instead of a W-2. While the entire process is made easier with a W-2 in hand, those who find themselves stuck without their W-2 still have options. To learn more about how to deal with a missing W-2, contact your local tax experts at Check City.

Taxes Can Be a Dream Not a Nightmare

When you hear the word “dream,” it usually is usually associated with good things. (And, we’re talking bucket-list type of dreams, not sleeping dreams.) People dream about backpacking around Europe, learning how to play the drums, skiing in the Alps, or sleeping in a Mongolian yurt. These things just seem so cool and dreamlike and grand that people rarely take their own dreams seriously. The thing is, they aren’t! Your dreams are within you reach. Sure, it may take some planning and research and guts, but if you put your mind to it, you can live your dreams.

Many people also dream about getting more of their taxes back. But it sounds too good to be true. We live in a cruel world. But the truth is, there are a lot of common deductions that people simply overlook – missing out on the realization of their tax-back dream.

Here is a list of a few commonly overlooked deductions that you should definitely look into.

Energy-Efficiency

Our government is all for energy efficiency. Families or individuals that have taken measures to make their homes more energy efficient, qualify for up to 10% tax cuts on those expenses. Improvements that fall under this category include home improvement projects like new insulated windows, new doors, or a new roof.

Furthermore, if you have chosen to put up actual alternative energy measures, like solar panels or wind turbines, in your home, you can write off up to 30% of those costs! Who knew that you’d save money via taxes, not only cuts in energy costs when you installed these great, environmentally friendly devices! It really is a dream.

Disaster

If you wish that life was fair, in this case, you are chasing an impossible dream. However, the government is not heartless. They try to make up the difference if they can. In cases of disaster, damage, and burglary, you may be eligible to claim those losses on your taxes. Of course, this comes with some conditions. Regular wear and tear does not count. Neither do costs that have already been covered by your insurance. However, if you don’t have insurance or were not fully covered, you may be able to catch a break with the government.

Additionally, people who live in areas that have been declared a federal disaster area are automatically eligible to claim their losses. When life is unfair, the government does try to even things out.

Dependents: Young AND Old

Everyone knows that you get tax breaks for kids. But many people forget that they can claim deductions if they are taking care of their elderly parent(s). Whether old or young, taking care of dependents can be a heavy financial burden. This can even apply to a spouse who is mentally or physically incapable of taking care of themselves. You can get up to $3,000 per year for taking care of these dependents!

These are just three of several tax deductions available to many qualified candidates. If you’re not sure how to claim these tax deductions on your own, we recommend contacting one of the tax professionals at our Utah Check City Locations. If you dream of getting more back for any hardships or expenses you have, don’t simply dismiss those dreams. There’s a chance it could be realized!

Get out there and search around for additional deductions you may have missed!

Tax Breaks for Pet Owners

In 2009 republican senator Thaddeus McCotter introduced the bill H.R. 3501, nominally referred to as the HAPPY bill, in an effort to grant long desired tax breaks to pet owners across the nation. HAPPY gained good support through its early phases and received endorsements from nearly every organization and non-profit around the country that deals with animal rights, treatment, and care, but eventually the bill stalled and failed.

With the failure of the HAPPY bill to be passed into law, millions of Americans across the nation continue to care and provide for their furry family members without being able to claim the costs of pet ownership as deductions for their taxes. Which, when one considers how much it takes to keep a pet, can be a considerable financial burden.

Some have compared owning a pet to raising a child. Perhaps not in the same rearing and nurturing way, although there are plenty of pet owners who would argue differently, but certainly owning a pet and raising children are similar in the financial responsibilities category, and this can be shown through the numbers.

Just as a parent is responsible for providing for their children, pet owners are charged with the duty of caring for their pets, and this care can be expensive. Recent studies have shown that pet ownership can cost a family, depending on the type of pet, anywhere from $235.00 for a fish all the way to over $1800.00 for a large dog!

Ways to Claim Pet Expenses on Taxes

While the IRS will not even consider the notion of claiming a pet as a dependent (although many individuals have tried to do so over the years) there are several ways to receive tax breaks for pet ownership if one knows what to look for. Not all of the following ideas may pertain to all pet owners, but those who qualify can receive the tax breaks they have been looking for concerning pet ownership.

Moving Deductions

The first deduction that can be made for owning a pet comes in the form of moving. Because pets are considered property by the forces that be (the IRS) a person can receive a tax deduction for the costs of moving their pets the same way they would for moving the rest of their property.

Pest Control

Another way to receive a tax break on the pets of the home is to make use of the animal in one of the tax exemptible ways. One man received a tax break on the pet food he bought for his cats because he could prove that owning the cats helped his business by hunting and clearing the junkyard he operated of mice and other vermin.

Guard Dogs

In a similar way, if you cannot claim your pet as a part of your business expenses, you can try claiming the services of the animal as a guard dog. If the family pet doubles as a ferocious security guard on a valuable property or gated home, then the animal can be tax deductible for the service it provides; be pet owners should be warned, the dog must actually look the part before consideration is given so dachshunds and pugs are out.

While these were just a few of the ways to claim deductions on pets, there are others that pet owners can take advantage of. So remember, the best way to ensure that you are able to get all of the tax return you deserve is to consult with a tax professional. If you live in Utah you can visit any Check City location and take advantage of our Utah tax services.

Become Tax Savvy

The end of the year is quickly approaching and if you want to hold onto as much of your hard earned money as possible, that means it’s time to plan for taxes. Most of us think of Tax as a four letter word even if we can read! It is painful to see the government pulling so much out of a working man’s pocket but how many of us are pulling the cash out of our pockets and handing it over to the government ourselves? You may think that you don’t fall into this category but you may be surprised. In this post we’ll cover several ways that you can save money on taxes that usually go overlooked.

Donate to charities

Many people who are stingy with their money actually find that their taxes are more in the end. You have a choice of either giving your “donations” to the government or an actual cause that you believe in. This donation can be a number of different causes whether it is universities, churches, or non-profit organizations. You can actually donate clothing, household items and other property for tax deductions with cooperating organizations. Remember that these items need to be in good condition in order to be seen as tax deductible.

Offset gains against losses

There are many ways to show that you have had a loss, even if you made a profit in that year. What you have to consider is the depreciation of the things that you own whether it is stocks or equipment (if you are a business owner).

Start your retirement plan

All contributions that you make to a retirement account, as long as you are eligible, can be deducted from taxes. You have to be an active participant, or if you are married than your spouse needs to be an active participant. The way that this is done is by looking at the modified adjusted gross income where they can decide how much of a deduction you are eligible for. You may be able to deduct up to $49,000.

Make sure that the IRS has the right address

There are thousands of refund checks sent to bad addresses each year. If you don’t get your refund check you may also be missing out on crucial information about tax deductions that the IRS may suggest for you.

Flexible Spending Account

This is a benefit that some employers offer where they take some of an employees pay before taxes and send it to an account where it can be used for all kinds of benefits by the employee. So not only will you pay less taxes but they are there ready to be used when you need to make a claim. These are used for dependent care and healthcare as well.

In between

If you found yourself spending money to find work or you in-between jobs for a period of time. You may be eligible to deduct some of those expenses if they happened while looking for a job in a new occupation.

Home computer and cell phones

If you use your computer to produce income then you can deduct the depreciation of your home computer. This same principle applies to cell phone use if it was for work.

Staying healthy

The IRS looks at all of your medical expenses and understands that your insurance may not cover all of that. You can actually write off all of your travel to and from the doctor’s office or any other travel expenses incurred from medical.

Keep track of it all

So, all of those receipts that you are throwing away could turn into money in your pocket later on. Make sure you are keeping track of things and that you have a record of even the smallest expenses you have. Here are some ways to organize and file your paperwork so taxes are a little bit easier to do in the end.

  1. Make sure you have both your social security card and all of your dependents’ as well. If you don’t it will delay the process of receiving a return.
  2. Keep track of all of your W-2 forms so you can know your income totals.
  3. You also need to track your earnings from other assets. This can be savings or other interest earning activities. These need to be documented and sent in as well.
  4. Start doing some pre-filing by understanding some of the costs associated with your home. Mortgage interest is tax deductible.
  5. Keep track of your real estate taxes so you can put those done as tax deductible. This goes for people who don’t own homes as well. If you have to pay taxes on a car you can put that down as well.

Make sure that everything is in an order so that you can back up every claim that you make.

Should You Be Filing a Tax Extension?

It’s April 15, 2013 and that means that the mad dash to midnight has begun. For the tens of thousands of Americans who have left their taxes until the last minute it’s decision time, do you try to rush and get your taxes done and risk the chance of missing out on hundreds or thousands of dollars in missed tax deductions or do you file an extension and possibly prolong the stress of tax season. Well regardless of which route you decide to go Check City Lighting Tax Services can help. Here are several of the ways that our Lightning Tax services can help you this season.

File an Extension- If April 15th snuck up on you this year and you haven’t even begun to think about doing your taxes then you’ll probably want to consider applying for a tax extension. If you need help with this you can stop by any of our Check City locations for help with filing a tax extension including help with filling out the tax extension form and putting together a plan to get your taxes done as quickly as possible. One thing to keep in mind with a tax extension is that just because you file a tax extension it doesn’t mean that you no long have to pay on taxes you owe. In a recent study it was found that almost half of Americans weren’t aware that they still had to pay taxes even though they had filed a tax extension.

Still Do Taxes- While it may seem like very last minute, if you have all of your information ready but you’re intimidated by all of the tax forms there is still time to stop by your local Check City location and get your taxes filed. By taking advantage of our Lighting Tax program you can also see if you qualify for one of our tax return loans so that you can get your money more quickly. Also, it’s important to point out that if you don’t actually owe any money to the government they are more lenient on the tax deadline.

Set Up Payment Plans- Many people have no idea that you can actually set up a payment plan with the IRS. More and more people are using this option ith as tough as the economy has been in recent years. If you find yourself in the situation where you know you owe money but won’t be able to pay it all off right away you can stop by one of our many Check City locations and have our knowledgeable tax professionals help you file a payment plan. The great thing about these payment plans is that you can outline what you feel is reasonable and what you can work into your budget , however, it is up to the IRS to accept or reject your proposed payment plan.

Short Term Loans- If you know that you’ll have the cash within a couple weeks to pay off your taxes but you just don’t have the money right now then we recommend utilizing one of our many services to help you get the cash to pay off your taxes right now. If you own your car one of the best options right now is to take advantage of our 30-Day Interest Free Title Loan. By taking advantage of this interest free title loan you’ll be able to pay off your taxes now and not have to pay an interest on the loan for 30 Days! If you don’t have a title in hand with any of your vehicles then another option would be to get a cash advance or payday loan. As always we recommend being responsible with these loans so if you don’t think you’ll have the money to pay them off within a few weeks then the tax payment plan may be a better option for you.

If you have any tax questions feel free to stop by your local Check City or leave them in the comment section below.

4 Great Tips on Your Tax Return Status

Getting your tax return can be a very exciting thing, but it often times can be difficult staying patient. Knowing there is money coming your way without knowing exactly when can be hard. Here are some tips on how you can track your tax returns and your tax return status.

Most Refunds are Issued in Less Than 21 Days

So how can you track the status of your refund while you wait? A great way is to download the mobile app called, “IRS2Go”. If you don’t have a smartphone, don’t worry. You can start checking on your tax return status within 24 hours after they’ve received it.

How Often Can You (Should You) Check Your Status Update

The system is updated usually overnight every 24 hours, so you only need to check your tax return status once a day. The “Where’s My Refund” tool provides the most complete and up to date information that the IRS has, so there’s no need to call unless the tool tells you to.

What Delays Your Refund?

Issues that can slow down your refund include errors on a tax return, and returns identified for additional IRS review. If the IRS ever needs more information to process your return, they’ll notify you. Otherwise, you can usually expect to get your refund within 21 days.

File Early

If you don’t want to wait for your tax return, try to file as early as you can. Filing early could be recommended if you need the money earlier, or if there is any problems. File early, get your money early.

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