TAXES What Are Tax Credits?


What Are Tax Credits?


Remember that time you dug out the old jacket you hadn’t used in months from the closet and found a crumply $20 bill hiding inside one of the pockets? Makes you want to do a happy dance just thinking about it, right?

In the tax world, finding out if you qualify for a tax credit can feel a lot like finding that unexpected $20 bill—only much more valuable! Tax credits can magically shave hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars off your tax bill. Now that is worth busting a move or two!

Let’s take a closer look at what a tax credit is, how they work, and which ones you might be able to claim on your tax return this spring.

What Is a Tax Credit?

tax credit reduces how much you pay in taxes by letting you subtract a certain amount of money directly from your tax bill. A $500 tax credit, for example, will save you $500 in taxes owed. The more tax credits you claim, the more money you get to keep in your pocket!

What’s the point of having tax credits? The government sometimes uses taxes as a “stick” to try to discourage folks from certain behaviors or activities (think taxes on cigarettes). But Uncle Sam will also dangle a tax credit as a “carrot” to encourage certain behaviors and activities that might be beneficial for the economy, the environment or some other cause.


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Tax credits are also a way to provide a tax break for low- and middle-income taxpayers who need it most.

What’s the Difference Between a Tax Deduction and a Tax Credit?

While tax deductions and tax credits both lower how much you’ll pay in taxes, they do so in different ways. Deductions lower your taxable income while tax credits lower how much you actually owe in taxes dollar for dollar.

Deductions lower your taxable income while tax credits lower how much you actually owe in taxes dollar for dollar.

How does all that work? Well, if you’re in the 22% tax bracket, a $1,000 tax deduction will cut $220 off your tax bill. That’s pretty good! But a $1,000 tax credit will actually save you $1,000 in taxes for the year. So, between deductions and credits, it’s pretty clear to see that tax credits are the more valuable of the two!

Refundable vs. Nonrefundable Tax Credits: How Do Tax Credits Work?

While tax credits are great, not all tax credits are created equal. That’s because a tax credit can either be refundable or nonrefundable.

You still subtract both types of tax credits from what you owe in taxes, but there’s a big difference if the credit is greater than the amount you owe. With a refundable tax credit, the difference is paid to you as a refund! But with a nonrefundable credit, you won’t get a refund—the best you could hope for is to reduce your tax bill to zero.

A tax credit can either be refundable or nonrefundable.

For example, let’s say you owe $500 in taxes this year. If you’re eligible for a $750 nonrefundable tax credit, your tax bill goes down to zero, which is great, but you wouldn’t receive the extra $250 as a refund. The amount that’s left over is basically lost.

But what if that $750 tax credit was a refundable tax credit? In that case, you’d end up with no tax bill and you also get a $250 check back from the IRS. Nice!

Unfortunately, most tax credits are nonrefundable (boo!) but there are still some refundable tax credits you might qualify for!

What Tax Credits Are Available for Taxpayers?

There are dozens of tax credits available for all kinds of taxpayers, from parents and low-income workers to students and Americans living overseas. Chances are there’s one or two you might be able to claim on your tax return!

Here’s a rundown on some of the most common tax credits you might be able to claim this year.

Earned Income Tax Credit

This is the Big Kahuna of tax credits! The EITC is a refundable credit designed to help out low- and middle-income workers, especially those with children. Depending on your income, your filing status, and how many children you have, the credit could save you anywhere from $529 to $6,557 on your taxes.1

Workers earning up to $54,884 during the 2019 tax year might be eligible for the EITC.2 And while this is the most popular credit out there, the IRS estimates that one out of five taxpayers who are eligible either don’t claim the benefit on their taxes or don’t file a tax return at all.3 Don’t make that mistake!

Child Tax Credit

Kids are awesome. Kids are also expensive. But thanks to the 2018 tax reform billfamilies can claim up to $2,000 per qualified child with this tax credit (the income limits for this credit are $200,000 for single parents and $400,000 for married couples). And it’s a refundable credit, so if it’s worth more than what you owe in taxes, your family can receive up to $1,400 per child as a refund. Thanks, Junior!4

Education Credits

There are two major tax credits available for students. First, there’s the American Opportunity Credit. This credit is available only for students in their first four years of college and it’s worth up to $2,500 per student. Plus, it’s partially refundable, meaning you can receive up to $1,000 as a tax refund—even if you don’t owe anything in taxes!

If you’ve been in school longer than four years or you’re taking courses to advance your career, then the Lifetime Learning Credit is for you. Although this credit is nonrefundable, it can still cut your tax bill by up to $2,000.5 So stay in school, kids!

Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver’s Credit)

This one’s for all you retirement savers out there! Also known as the Saver’s Credit, this nonrefundable credit helps low- and middle-income taxpayers who are saving for retirement. Depending on how much you make and what your tax filing status is, you can claim the credit for 50%, 20% or 10% of the first $2,000 you contribute to your retirement accounts, including 401(k)s and IRAs.

If you’re married filing jointly, your adjusted gross income has to be less than $64,000 in order to qualify for this credit (for singles, it’s $32,000 or less).6

Foreign Tax Credit

Just because you’re an American living overseas doesn’t mean you’re free from Uncle Sam’s grasp. But cheer up! To ease the pain of being taxed in two or more countries, the income taxes you’ve paid in another country can usually be claimed as a nonrefundable credit to lower your tax burden.7

Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you need to pay for child care so that you can go to work or if you’re caring for a spouse or parent who is unable to care for themselves, this credit can help you claim 20%—35% of up to $3,000 (or up to $6,000 of expenses for two or more dependents) of those costs.8

Elderly or Disabled Credit

Sometimes it pays to be a senior citizen. You get all kinds of discounts, free memberships and some pretty neat tax breaks! If you’re at least 65 years old or you’re retired with a permanent disability, you could knock $3,750—$7,500 off your tax bill with this nonrefundable tax credit.9

Get Your Taxes Done Right

Think you might qualify for one of these tax credits, but you’re not sure? You’re not alone! Unfortunately, millions of dollars in tax credits go unclaimed each year—that’s money that should be in your bank account instead of the government’s coffers!

If you need a tax advisor to help you with your taxes, our tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) are here to serve you. These tax pros will take the time to get to know you and your tax situation so that you don’t miss out on any tax credits you qualify for.

If a leader doesn’t convey passion and intensity then there will be no passion and intensity within the organization and they’ll start to fall down and get depressed. Get Your Free Position Now

TAXES 4 Costly Strategies People Use to Avoid Paying Taxes


4 Costly Strategies People Use to Avoid Paying Taxes


Can you really avoid paying taxes?

It’s a question that comes up at tax time every year. People want to pay less to the government and save as much money as they can. You can’t avoid the IRS, but you can take steps to protect your income.

Credits and deductions can reduce your tax bill if you’ve earned them. However, that doesn’t mean every tax-saving tactic is right for you. For instance, some people go so far as to invest money in something that saves taxes on the front end but costs them more in the long run.

That’s why it’s always a smart move to talk with a tax professional to ensure you understand how your investments impact your taxes.

Related: Not sure if your financial situation needs a tax pro’s guidance? Take this free quiz to find out!

Don’t Use These Strategies to Avoid Paying Taxes

We’re all about saving money on taxes. But not all tax-saving strategies are created equal. Let’s take a closer look at four common ways people try to avoid paying taxes—and why none of them are a good idea for tax savings alone.

1. Opening a Traditional IRA

Some people looking for a way to put themselves in a lower tax bracket will open a traditional IRA and write off whatever money they put in there. While saving money’s great, there is a problem with this strategy.


Don’t let taxes stress you out. A tax pro is the way to go!

Any money that goes into a traditional IRA is tax-deferred, which means you pay taxes on it when you take it out. At that point, your nest egg will most likely be much bigger. So you’re saving a little money on taxes now only to pay a lot more of it later. That’s not the best deal!

If you want to save for retirement, the first place you should put money is into a matching 401(k) plan. Even if it’s tax-deferred, you’re still getting free cash. If you have a Roth 401(k) option at work, go for it because it means your money will grow tax free. If not, invest up to your match, then open a Roth IRA so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy tax-free growth.

2. Buying an Annuity

Keeping with the investing theme, an annuity is simply a savings account with an insurance company. It can be tax-sheltered, but the problem is that you usually pay an extra fee to get that shelter. Sure, you save on taxes, but those savings cost you.

The only time it might be good to use a variable annuity is when you’ve maxed out all other retirement savings and your house is paid for, and most people aren’t there yet. Don’t open one just to save on tax day.

3. Saving Money in a Whole Life Insurance Policy

A salesman might pitch to you that the interest accumulated on the savings portion of a whole life or cash value policy does so free of taxes, so it’s good to save your money there. However, that “good” isn’t just bad—it’s ugly.

Here’s why whole life insurance policies are a bad investment:

  • Whole life insurance policies are notorious for bringing low rates of return. You could earn much more by investing in good growth stock mutual funds instead.
  • When you die, your family only receives the face value of your whole life insurance policy. All that money you saved inside the insurance plan? Gone.

Don’t choose a bad insurance product just to avoid taxes. Instead, invest in tax-favored retirement plans, like a Roth IRA or your workplace 401(k). You’ll still get tax breaks for your contributions—without the subpar rate of return.

4. Keeping the Mortgage Too Long

This one is a little more long-term, but it’s important to address. Don’t keep a mortgage just to save on taxes. The deduction you get for mortgage interest isn’t dollar-for-dollar, so you’ll pay more in interest than you save with Uncle Sam.

Let’s say you have a $200,000 mortgage at an interest rate of 5% and fall into the 25% tax bracket.

  • Keep the mortgage, and you’ll pay $10,000 a year in interest and save $2,500 in taxes.
  • Pay off the mortgage, and you’ll miss out on the $2,500 tax deduction but save $10,000 in interest.

Do you really think it’s smart to pay the bank $10,000 just so you can get a $2,500 tax break? We didn’t think so. Pay the mortgage off and be done with it!

Save Money With a Tax Professional You Can Trust

Dave’s tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) are tax professionals who will take the time to explain your taxes and make sure you get every deduction you’re eligible to receive. Don’t wait until the tax crunch. Contact your tax pro today!

If a leader doesn’t convey passion and intensity then there will be no passion and intensity within the organization and they’ll start to fall down and get depressed. Get Your Free Position Now

TAXES A Closer Look: Where Does Your Tax Money Go?


A Closer Look: Where Does Your Tax Money Go?


Editor’s Note: For the most up-to-date information on tax policy and how it affects you, talk to a tax professional in your area and rock your tax preparation this year!

Hold on to your checkbooks! The 2012 tax year will be a record-setter. According to the Congressional Budget Office, tax revenues will reach $2.7 trillion—the most they have ever been. And, at $17 trillion, America’s debt will also be higher than ever before.

Many Americans side with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who says America can thank bad politics for its financial trouble. “It’s the typical trick of the career politician,” he said. “I’ll give you something for nothing—it doesn’t work. Now, we’re at that time where the bill’s due.”

But taxes, debt and spending are tough issues for Americans. While most of us aren’t comfortable with our country’s debt levels and nearly everyone agrees that our government could handle our tax money better, we disagree about who should pay taxes and what taxes should pay for.

So we’ve decided to dive deep into these topics to discover exactly what Americans are paying for and why our nation’s spending seems to be spiraling out of control. Will the facts show that Sen. Coburn and millions of other citizens are mistaken, and that most Americans are actually getting what they want from their taxes?


Don’t let taxes stress you out. A tax pro is the way to go!

What Are We Paying For?

Over the past few months, millions of American taxpayers have dutifully filed their federal income taxes. For many families, these taxes are their largest annual expense. Regardless, most will simply fill out the paperwork and pay whatever figure ends up on the bottom line without asking too many questions.

So what are we really paying for? A sample 2011 tax receipt provided by shows the total tax bill for a married couple with two kids making $80,000 was just over $9,000. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Payroll taxes make up about half of the family’s tax bill and pay for Medicare ($1,160) and Social Security ($3,360).
  • About 70% of their income taxes go to three categories: national defense ($1,142), health care expenses like Medicaid ($1,087), and job and family security programs like unemployment insurance and food and housing assistance ($876).
  • The remainder is divided between 12 categories that include education, energy, agriculture and interest payments on the national debt.

On the spending side, federal budget outlays follow our sample tax receipt fairly closely. In 2011, the federal government spent $3.6 trillion: $2.2 trillion was financed by federal tax revenues; $83 billion came from Federal Reserve profits; and $1.3 trillion was borrowed money.

  • Health care expenses made up the largest portion of the budget at $769 billion. This was divided between Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) to provide health care to 60 million low-income children, parents, elderly and disabled Americans.
  • Social Security was the next largest expense at $731 billion, providing average monthly benefits of $1,230 to 35.6 million retired workers and 10.6 million disabled workers and their eligible dependents.
  • Defense and International Security Assistance expenses came in at $718 billion and include $159 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Safety net programs such as unemployment insurance and food and housing assistance totaled $466 billion.
  • Interest on the debt was only 6% of the budget at $230 billion.
  • The remaining $686 billion goes to programs such as veteran and federal retiree benefits, food and drug safety, education and transportation.

Who Is Paying For It?

If you want to stir up controversy, bring up the topic of who pays taxes and who doesn’t. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney arguably lost the 2012 election due to a remark he made about 47% of the country’s citizens not paying income taxes. What’s the truth behind the numbers?

Our income tax system is progressive, which means people with higher incomes do shoulder a larger portion of the taxes. According to Congressional Budget Office data, this year higher income families will have the highest average tax bills since 1979—the first year the office began tracking taxes.

  • Incomes in the top 20% will pay an average of 27.2% of their income in federal taxes, including income, payroll, corporate and estate taxes.
  • The top 1% will pay an average of 35.5% of their incomes in taxes.
  • The middle 20%, with incomes averaging $46,000, will pay an average of 13.8% of their incomes in taxes. That’s down from an average of about 16% over the last 30 years.
  • The bottom 20% of income earners won’t pay any federal taxes. Many will actually have a negative tax rate due to refundable credits and will actually receive payments from the federal government.

Related: Keep more of your hard-earned cash out of the hands of the government and in your own pocket. Work with a tax pro in your area who will help you do your taxes right!

Politics of Taxes

Republicans and Democrats, of course, view these findings differently. Democrats say wealthier people can afford to pay more because their incomes have grown more than middle- and low-income families’ have grown. Average after-tax incomes for the top 1% increased 155% between 1979 and 2009. Middle incomes increased 32% during the same period, while the lowest incomes grew 45%.

New tax laws passed by Congress January 1 and tax increases included in the Affordable Health Care Act will widen the tax gap for the 2013 tax year.

  • The top tax rate rises from 35% to 39.6% on individual incomes of more than $400,000 ($450,000 for married couples).
  • Lower tax rates are now permanent on incomes less than that amount.
  • Tax breaks for low-income families first enacted in President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package have been extended through 2017.

Republicans argue that raising taxes on higher incomes hurts long-term economic growth by reducing incentive to save and invest. In the 100-year history of the federal income tax, the top individual tax rate has been as high as 91% according to research compiled by the Heritage Foundation. But no matter how high or low income tax rates have been, the revenue produced by the income tax has remained steady, averaging 8% of gross domestic product, and never exceeding 10.2% of GDP.

Higher tax rates, Republicans point out, push taxpayers to find ways to shelter their income rather than use it to invest in the economy. “Recent increases in the top rate will do almost nothing to reduce deficits and debt,” Curtis Dubay said in his commentary published by the Heritage Foundation. “But it will cause considerable damage to the fragile economy.”

What Is Driving Spending?

The website compiles government spending and revenue data using Census Bureau reports, federal budgets and local government finance reports.

  • According to this data, total government spending as a percentage of GDP has increased 11.47% between 1972 and 2009.
  • In the same time period, spending on defense, infrastructure and government services has kept pace with GDP growth, even declining slightly as a share of GDP.
  • However, entitlement spending—which includes expenses for Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Social Security, welfare and social insurance programs—increased from a total of 6.02% of GDP in 1972 to nearly 20% of GDP in 2011.

Research released in the New York Times confirms that nearly all the growth in federal spending as a share of GDP has come from increased expenses in entitlement spending. According to the New York Times calculations, total government spending rose about 9% between 1972 and 2011, equal to $1.3 trillion per year in current dollars. In 1972, spending on entitlement programs was $500 billion. If it had increased at the same rate as GDP, it would now be $1.4 trillion. Instead, it is $2.9 trillion, $1.5 trillion above GDP growth.

In the report “Federal Spending by the Numbers” published by the Heritage Foundation, growth of the three main entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—combined with $1.7 trillion in new spending related to the Affordable Healthcare Act will force all other government programs like national defense, veterans programs, transportation, etc. to be paid for entirely with borrowed money by midcentury.

Here again, Republicans and Democrats differ in how to solve this problem. Democrats are generally in favor of preserving these benefits as they are, and are more likely to consider raising revenue through increased taxes. Republicans often propose spending cuts, including cuts to benefits, and oppose tax increases to fund additional spending.

Another Spending Issue—Waste

But, Sen. Coburn, however, says waste in the federal budget is the real problem. In 2011, Coburn presented his deficit reduction plan, Back in Black, which cut a total of $9 trillion from federal expenditures and would have balanced the budget in 10 years. The majority of his spending cuts focused on wasteful spending not only on entitlements, but throughout the federal budget.

“As long as we keep concentrating only on entitlement programs or fixed programs, you miss the third of the rest of the budget in the non-defense discretionary budget that’s wasted,” Sen. Coburn said.

Coburn believes we can get control of our spending, including entitlement spending, by examining and eliminating waste. “We can keep our promises (made through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid),” he said. “What we can’t keep doing is telling people they’re fine when in fact, from a financial standpoint, they’re bankrupt.

“All the problems in front of us are solvable, but everybody’s going to be required to sacrifice­—the very wealthy and the not wealthy,” Coburn said. “We can’t borrow enough money to get us out of debt. We can’t tax our way out. The only way we can is to reform our way out of it. And the reform ought to be about growing the economy and growing prosperity and growing jobs by putting more capital into productive things rather than putting more capital into government.”

Are Taxpayers Getting What They Want?

Now that we’ve seen what we’re paying for and how much we’re paying for it—and how much more we’re not able to pay for, we’ve come down to the final question: Are taxpayers getting what they want? Do Americans believe it’s worth the expense to support government involvement in so many areas of our lives?

There is some research that suggests they do. A survey conducted by Head Research for TD Ameritrade shows that Americans’ top three priorities for government are affordable health care, job creation and improving public education. Investing in U.S. defense, a core government responsibility, came in eighth on the list.

Another study by American Progress says Americans tend to disagree with “big” government in principle, but at the same time, they embrace a wide range of federal government programs and initiatives. The survey also found:

  • 62% of survey respondents say their priority is to make government more efficient and effective over reducing the size of government.
  • Even the 27% of respondents who say the government should not do more to solve problems also say they want to see government improved rather than downsized in areas like energy development, education, reducing poverty and access to affordable healthcare.

“There’s a hole in that philosophy that everyone knows, but no one will admit,” Sen. Coburn said in response to these numbers. “It’s enticing to think that government can do things, but there’s not one program in the federal government that’s both highly effective and efficient.

“The more money the government spends, that means there’s less money in the private sector,” he continued. “Government can’t spend money and create wealth. Only the private sector can. So the bigger the government, the less the share of the GDP there is to produce wealth, which will promote increasing incomes for the private sector.”

If a leader doesn’t convey passion and intensity then there will be no passion and intensity within the organization and they’ll start to fall down and get depressed. Get Your Free Position Now

TAXES The Truth About Taxes


The Truth About Taxes


Myth: Getting a big refund on my income taxes is a good way to save money.

Truth: If you get a large tax refund, you’re allowing the IRS to take too much money out of your paycheck. You’re loaning the government your money; interest free. That’s money you could use to pay off debt and/or build wealth each month.

Related: Our tax pros can show you how to take home as much cash as possible with each paycheck and avoid overpaying the IRS. Connect with a tax pro today!

Getting a chunk of your money back at tax time is not the same as taking it home in your paycheck each month. According to the IRS, the average tax refund will be $2,800 in 2010. That’s about $230 per month you can’t use because you’re sending it to the government!

If you’re following the Baby Steps—Dave Ramsey’s plan to get you out of debt and building wealth—$230 will go a long way. In Baby Step 2, you pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball. Imagine how much more quickly you could accomplish that by adding $230 each month to your payments. And, because you’d be paying down principal, you’d save on interest, too.


Don’t let taxes stress you out. A tax pro is the way to go!

Or, instead of giving your $230 a month to Uncle Sam, invest it in a Roth IRA earning a 12% rate of return. In 10 years, you’ll have $53,438. Got some extra time? After 32 years, your Roth IRA will be worth over $1 million—tax free!

Your goal is to pay nothing at tax time and not get a big check back from the government. To do that, do some figuring now to determine what your taxes will be for next year. Fill out a new W-4 to have the proper amount withheld from your paycheck. You can get an idea of your potential savings by using the withholding calculator at

If a leader doesn’t convey passion and intensity then there will be no passion and intensity within the organization and they’ll start to fall down and get depressed. Get Your Free Position Now

TAXES How to Calculate Taxes for Your Business


How to Calculate Taxes for Your Business

How to Calculate Taxes for Your Business


Owning a small business has its perks, right? You get to be your own boss, set your own hours, make your own decisions. But no matter how much fun you have running the show, there’s one thing about owning a small business that makes most small-business owners cringe.

Yep, you guessed it—calculating small-business taxes.

It’s not everyone’s favorite weekend activity, but unfortunately, you have to calculate your small-business taxes at least once a quarter. There’s a lot that goes into this, so put your nerd hat on and let’s dive right in.

How Is Your Business Legally Structured?

First off, before you touch a single spreadsheet, make sure you’re clear on the legal structure of your business. Whether you run a bookstore or a research consulting firm, the IRS will classify your business as one of the following five structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, S corporation, or C corporation.

The IRS will classify your business as one of the following five structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, S corporation, or C corporation.

For the head scratchers out there, thinking, Well, I don’t know—I just own a small business, the IRS is probably classifying you as a sole proprietorship. If that doesn’t sound right to you, take a second and get a refresh on each of the business structures.


Business taxes can be confusing. Get the help you need.

How Do You Calculate Income Taxes for Small Businesses?

Do you remember how you calculated income taxes for your personal filing? You took your yearly income and subtracted deductions and credits to get your taxable income. That taxable income put you in certain tax brackets, with each bracket corresponding to a tax rate. Finally, you multiplied your tax rate and your taxable income to get how much you owed the IRS. Easy, right?

Calculating small-business taxes isn’t much different, especially if your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or S corporation (we’ll come back to these in a minute). C corporations are a little bit different, so it’s worth spending a few words on them.

What’s the tax rate for C corporations?

C corporations are taxed twice, once at a corporate rate of 21% and then again at their shareholders’ personal rates (if they take a dividend).1

For example, let’s say you own a company called Money Makeover Inc. Suppose your company brought in $200,000 in profit. And let’s also go ahead and say that after business expenses and deductions, you’re left with $175,000 of taxable income.

So, first, Money Makeover Inc. has to pay taxes at the corporate level, which is a flat rate of 21%. Remember: No matter how much profit Money Makeover Inc. makes, it will always pay a flat 21% for income taxes. In our example, that would be:

$175,000 x 21% = $36,750

So, Money Makeover Inc. pays $36,750 in income taxes for the corporation. Now, let’s say you’re one of two shareholders for Money Makeover Inc., and you get a dividend of $25,000. Well, this is where things get a little complicated, so pay attention.

If you owned the stock longer than 60 days, it’s called a “qualified dividend,” and the IRS then will tax it on a sliding scale. That means the higher your dividend the more you’ll pay in taxes. If your qualified dividend is lower than $38,601 (like in our example above), you wouldn’t pay taxes. But the moment your dividend goes above $38,601, you start to pay the tax. The rate maxes at 20% for earnings over $425,800. Now, let’s say you haven’t owned the stock longer than 60 days. Then, it’s called an “unqualified dividend.” You’ll pay taxes on unqualified dividends by using your personal tax rate, which you’ll find in your tax bracket.

What’s the tax rate if you’re not a C-corp?

If your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or S corporation, calculating income taxes is much easier than C corporations. Whatever profit you make will be taxed once at your personal tax rate.

So again, let’s say you own a company called Money Makeover. Let’s also say your company makes $75,000 in profit. And let’s go ahead and say after business expenses, deductions and employment taxes (we’ll get to those next), you’re left with $50,000 in taxable income.

Now, if this is your only income and you’re not filing jointly with your spouse, then based on your tax bracket ($9,700 taxed at 10%, $29,775 taxed at 12%, and $10,525 taxed at 22%), you would pay $6,900 in taxes.

How Do You Calculate Employment Taxes for Small Businesses?

Hopefully you’re not tired yet, because we haven’t even touched on employment taxes. So far, calculating small-business taxes hasn’t been super difficult (if you’ve been on the struggle bus, you could use some tax help).

But when you start hiring people, you have to pay employment taxes, which breaks down into social security and Medicare taxes.

How do you calculate social security taxes?

All employees must pay social security taxes on income below $132,900 (if your income is above $132,900, you’ll pay taxes up to that amount).2 It’s super easy to calculate this tax. Just take 12.4% of your employee’s income and set aside 6.2% for taxes. Your employee will then pay the other 6.2%.

How do you calculate Medicare?

Everyone pays Medicare. To calculate this tax, take out 2.9% of your employee’s wages and set aside half, which is 1.45%.3 Again, your employee will pay the other half.

How Do You Calculate Estimated Taxes?

Now, here’s where things get tricky for small businesses. Unlike personal filers, who file their taxes once a year, small-business owners have to pay estimated taxes once every quarter. Yes, that’s four times a year.

Estimated taxes, or quarterly taxes, are based on what you expect your taxable income to be throughout the year. Yeah, that can be tough, especially if you’re just starting your small business. But once you’ve got an income estimate to work with, it’s really not so bad. Here’s a quick step-by-step process to help you figure out these quarterly headaches (sorry, taxes).

1. Estimate your taxable income this year.

2. Calculate how much you’ll owe in income and self-employment taxes.

3. Divide your estimated total tax into quarterly payments.

4. Send an estimated quarterly tax payment to the IRS.

Estimated taxes, or quarterly taxes, are based on what you expect your taxable income to be throughout the year.

How Do Tax Deductions and Credits Play Into This?

Tax deductions and tax credits are the biggest breaks you’ll get from the IRS. Deductions reduce your taxable income, while tax credits reduce the actual amount you owe to the IRS.

The biggest tax deduction for sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and S corporations is a 20% deduction on all income.4 Yeah—20%. That means if your taxable income is $100,000, you can automatically deduct $20,000.

You can browse this list of common deductions to find out which ones apply to your small business, or talk to your tax pro.

The biggest tax deduction for sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and S corporations is a 20% deduction on all income.4

Want to Never Do Small-Business Taxes Again?

Look, we get it. You have a company to run. If you’re sick and tired of balancing spreadsheets, filling out quarterly forms, and filing annual returns by yourself, take the next step and hire a tax pro. An experienced tax pro will not only save you time, but they can also save you money, since it’s their job to know more about taxes than you.

Don’t know where to find competent, trustworthy professionals? Don’t worry. We can help you find tax professionals near you—ones that Dave himself recommends.

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TAXES Freelance Taxes 101


Freelance Taxes 101

Freelance Taxes 101


Being a freelancer means being your own boss, and that can be awesome. You go out, kill something, and drag it home every day. That’s how it’s done, baby! And you’re not alone. In fact, freelancers are expected to make up the majority of the U.S. workforce within the next decade.1

And why not? As a freelancer, you choose your hours, what projects to take on, and where you work. You get to call the shots!

But even if you already have a full-time job, freelancing is a great way to earn some extra money. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want more cash in their pockets?

But here’s some real talk: Whether you’re a full-time freelancer or just getting your side hustle on, it will impact how you file your taxes. And if you’re not careful, you could lose a large chunk of your freelance income to an enormous tax bill.

Tax Basics for Freelancers

What are the basics? There are three main things you need to know:

What’s the minimum I have to earn to pay freelance taxes?

If you earn $400 or more from freelance work in any given year, you are responsible for paying taxes on those earnings. Dave recommends you save as you go by setting aside around 25–30% of every freelance check you receive in a separate savings account to cover the taxes.


Business taxes can be confusing. Get the help you need.

Why so much? Because you have to pay both income tax and the self-employment tax.

What is the self-employment tax?

The self-employment tax is 15.3% and solely exists to cover your Social Security and Medicare taxes.2

At a normal full-time job, your Social Security and Medicare taxes are taken out of your paychecks automatically—and your employer covers half of those taxes. But as a freelancer, you’re considered both an employee and an employer. That’s why the IRS wants you to cover the whole 15.3%.

The Schedule SE tax form helps you calculate your self-employment tax, which you’ll then report on your standard Form 1040. You might also be able to deduct the employer-equivalent portion (50%) of your self-employment tax on your 1040.

Remember, the self-employment tax is in addition to your regular income tax rate. That’s why Dave recommends setting aside 25­–30% out of your freelance checks in a separate savings account: because that’ll cover both your income and self-employment taxes. This will keep you from getting hit with a huge bill at tax time.

When do I have to pay freelance taxes?

According to the IRS, you should pay taxes quarterly if you expect to owe at least $1,000 in taxes this year.3 Since taxes from your freelance income aren’t being withheld throughout the year, there’s a good chance you’ll need to estimate your taxes for the upcoming year and pay the IRS on a quarterly basis. The due dates for estimated taxes are:

Quarterly Tax Deadlines
First Payment April 15, 2020
Second Payment June 17, 2020
Third Payment September 16, 2020
Fourth Payment January 15, 2021


So, how do you know if you need to do this or not?

That’s a great question. Nearly half of all freelancers make $2,000 or less each year in freelance income.4 If you fall within that group, you can probably skip estimated tax payments and just report your freelance income when you file your tax return.

But if it’s looking like you’ll owe $1,000 or more in taxes, Form 1040-ES can help you ballpark how much you’ll make during the year and then determine your estimated taxes based on your projections.

If you underpay your estimated tax—these are estimates, after all—you’ll have to pay the remaining taxes when you file your annual tax return. (And yes, freelancers must file an annual tax return by April 15—just like everyone else.) On the other hand, if you overpay your estimated tax, you’ll receive the excess amount back in the form of a tax refund.

Keeping Track of Your Freelance Income

As a freelancer, you should receive a 1099-MISC from each client who paid you over $400.

However, many clients now pay freelancers and contractors through PayPal or other online payment systems, so you might receive a 1099-K form from your clients instead. But this form comes with an important caveat: Clients are not required to send you a 1099-K unless they pay you more than $20,000 or more than 200 times.

But just because you didn’t receive a 1099 from a client doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You still need to report your earnings to the IRS on a Schedule C form.

A Schedule C tax form serves as the hub for all your freelance income and expenses. First, you’ll report all the freelance income you earned during the tax year in Part I. This includes amounts already reported on the 1099 forms you received from clients and amounts not yet reported from clients who didn’t send a 1099.

After that, you’ll list your expenses in Parts II–V to see if you can claim any deductions. If you had $5,000 or less in business expenses, the more simplified Schedule C-EZ might be best for you.

Self-Employment Tax Deductions

Tax deductions lower your taxable income, potentially reducing your tax bill and saving you hundreds of dollars in the process. And as a freelancer, you get to claim a bunch of them!

But many self-employed professionals aren’t taking advantage of tax deductions. In fact, 73% of freelancers don’t deduct any expenses at all.5 That means some freelancers are paying more taxes than they have to!

As a freelancer, you can claim deductions on expenses that, according to the IRS, are “ordinary and necessary” for the operation of your business.

Some of the most common deductions for freelancers include:

  • Advertising and marketing
  • Office supplies
  • Computer equipment and software
  • Travel and business meals
  • Home office
  • Utilities

Careful documentation and detailed bookkeeping—like saving all your original receipts and invoices—can help you prove that those expenses were vital to your business, which will save you money come tax season.

That might be easier said than done since one in four freelancers has trouble keeping track of expenses.6 One way to make the process simpler is to open a separate checking account specifically for freelance work. It’s a great way to keep your personal and business finances separate—and track your expenses so you can claim them on your income taxes.

Find a Quality Tax Professional

Taxes are complicated enough as it is—and they only get more complex when you throw multiple streams of income into the mix. But the crazy thing is that only 20% of freelancers seek help from a tax professional or get bookkeeping advice.7 One of the biggest mistakes you could make as a freelancer is to try and go it alone when tax season comes around.

Dave’s nationwide network of tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) can help. Work with a top-rated tax advisor who will take the time to help you understand your tax situation and make sure you get every deduction you’re eligible for.

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TAXES 15 Common Tax Deductions for Small-Business Owners


15 Common Tax Deductions for Small-Business Owners

15 Common Tax Deductions for Small-Business Owners


We don’t have to convince you that taxes are complicated—especially for small-business owners. You know it. We know it.

And, quite frankly, you probably feel like you have much bigger fish to fry. You’re looking for ways to improve your product or service, what you can do to improve your customer experience, and how you can cut costs and increase revenue.

But not paying attention to your taxes could cost you big time—especially if you’re not sure which small-business tax deductions you’re eligible for. The last thing you want to do is miss out on deductions that could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on your taxes or, worse, make some mistakes that leave you in hot water with the IRS.

But don’t worry! We can help you get a better grasp on what you can write off your tax return.

The “Ordinary and Necessary” Rule

Unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t have a master list of small-business tax deductions for each and every profession there is. Instead, they leave small-business owners with this general rule of thumb for what business expenses you can write off your taxes: If something is “ordinary and necessary” to running your business, then it’s a tax-deductible expense.

In other words, if you need certain items or services to survive as a business, you can write off those expenses on your tax return. So, if you’re an artist, you need paint and brushes and canvases to create your artwork. Those costs are tax-deductible. But getting a haircut? You’re going to have a hard time proving your new hairdo is essential to keeping your art business alive.


Business taxes can be confusing. Get the help you need.

While certain expenses are specific to what kind of business you run, here are some of the most common tax deductions available for most small-business owners:

1. Qualified Business Income

The 2018 tax reform law changed how deductions work for most taxpayers—including small-business owners. Under the new tax law, most small businesses (sole proprietorships, LLCs, S corporations and partnerships) will be able to deduct 20% of their income on their taxes. Woo-hoo!

Basically, if you own a small business and it generates $100,000 in profit in 2019, you can deduct $20,000 before ordinary income tax rates are applied.

Be warned: There are a few limits, however, that could prevent you from claiming this deduction. The biggest obstacle is the income limit that applies to some high-income business owners such as lawyers, doctors and consultants. Once your income exceeds $157,500 for single filers or $315,000 for pass-through business owners who file a joint return, this deduction begins to phase out.1

You’ll want to reach out to a tax pro to see if you’re eligible for this pass-through entity deduction.

2. Home Office

Have you turned a spare room in your house or apartment into a home office space? Good news! That means you’ll probably be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home, which include mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs and depreciation. The simplified version of this deduction allows small-business owners to deduct $5 for every square foot of your home office, up to a maximum of 300 square feet.2

But it’s important to remember the IRS only allows you to claim this deduction if your home office is used exclusively for business purposes on a regular basis. If your home office doubles as a guest room for your mom when she’s in town, that’s not going to fly.

3. Rent

With rent always going up, it’s nice to get a break somewhere. The cost of renting a space for your business is fully deductible, whether it’s a storefront on a busy downtown street for your cupcake shop or an office space in a business complex for your travel agency.

4. Advertising and Marketing

If you’ve been handing out more business cards to potential clients than candy to trick-or-treaters on Halloween, you’re in luck! You’ll be able to deduct the cost of printing those business cards on your tax return. Basically, anything you use to promote your business and bring in new customers (from social media ads to billboards) is 100% deductible. So, deduct away!

5. Office Supplies and Expenses

Okay, no matter what kind of business you run, you probably have a need to stock up on traditional office supplies—whether it’s printer ink, pens or Post-it Notes. Those traditional office supplies are fully deductible!

If you’ve bought a new laptop, smartphone or some software that you use for your small business during the year, you can write off the entire cost of those expenses, too.

6. Utilities

Uncle Sam knows you have to keep the lights on to keep your business going (and vice versa). Everything you spend on utility bills for your business—including electricity, phone, internet, water, heat and sewage—is fully deductible.

7. Repairs

Roofs leak, toilets break, and walls need to be repainted from time to time. If you need to repair parts of your business property or just perform regular maintenance to keep things running efficiently, you can write off those costs on your taxes too.

8. Car

A lot of small-business owners use vehicles in order to get stuff done—whether it’s driving to and from meetings with clients or using a pickup truck to transport heavy equipment from worksite to worksite. If you can prove that you use a vehicle for business purposes, you can deduct those expenses from your income.

Now, there are two ways you can claim this deduction:

  1. Use the standard mileage rate. Add up all the miles you drove for your business and multiply by the IRS’s standard deduction rate to figure out your deduction. As of 2019, the standard mileage rate is 58 cents per mile.3 So, for example, if you drive 5,000 miles for business purposes in 2019, you’ll be able to deduct $2,900 off your taxes.
  2. Add up your actual car-related expenses. Now, this option is going to take a little more work. If you keep very detailed records throughout the year, you can add up how much your car depreciated and how much you spent on gas, repairs, tires, tune-ups, car insurance and registration fees. That will be your deduction, instead of the mileage.

Which option you choose basically depends on how economical your car is, how much it cost you to drive it throughout the year, and how well you documented your car-related expenses. Better save those receipts!

9. Travel

Many small-business owners and their employees spend a lot of time in airports and traveling around the country to do business. But all those airline tickets and hotels can get pricey! If that’s you, the good news is that you can deduct most travel expenses from business trips for you and your employees if there is a business purpose behind the trip.4 Just make sure you hang onto all your receipts and keep detailed records from your travels. 

10. Meals

Wining and dining business clients can get pretty expensive, but at least you’ll be able to split the check with Uncle Sam. You can deduct 50% of the costs for business lunches, but not “entertainment expenses” like sporting events or a concert.

The costs of providing meals for your employees at a company picnic or a holiday party, however, are fully deductible!

11. Salaries and Employee Benefits

If you have employees, what you pay them—from salaries and wages to bonuses and commissions—are tax-deductible business expenses. You can also deduct contributions to their retirement plans, education assistance and most other employee benefit program costs. Do you have any freelancers or contract workers? What you pay them is tax deductible, too!

12. Taxes

Nothing feels better than deducting taxes on your taxes. While you can’t deduct federal income taxes, there are still plenty of other taxes closer to home you’ll be able to write off on your tax return. For example, you can write off up to $10,000 of state and local income taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes and personal property taxes.

Here are a few other taxes you can also deduct:

  • Part of your self-employment tax
  • Franchise taxes
  • Excise taxes
  • Occupational taxes

13. Insurance

No matter what kind of business you’re in, you definitely want to protect it. And the best way to do that is to get the right kinds of insurance in place. The cost for many of the insurance premiums you’ll need for your business—like liability insurance, fire and flood insurance or a business owner’s policy—are deductible. Medical insurance for your employees is also deductible under certain circumstances as well.

14. Legal and Professional Fees

You have the right to an attorney—and the right to deduct any legal and accounting fees charged by attorneys and accountants that are related to your business operations.

15. Debt Interest

Listen, we believe the best way to run your business is to run it completely debt-free. Debt is not a tool to grow your business—it dramatically increases risk. Debt will slowly suck the life out of your business. And, if you’re not careful, business debt can lead to years of stress, endless payments and even bankruptcy.

If you’re thinking about taking out a business loan, don’t do it. That’s just dumb!

But if you’ve already taken out a loan for business purposes, whether it’s a mortgage or a line of credit, you can probably deduct the interest you’re paying on the loan from your taxes. But this is one deduction we don’t want you to have.

Now go pay off that loan as soon as possible and never borrow another cent again!

Talk With a Tax Pro

If all this tax stuff makes your head spin and you’d rather spend more of your time focused on your business, we hear you. We can connect you with an experienced tax professional in your area to help you take full advantage of these small-business tax deductions.

Our Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) take the stress out of tax season by helping you claim all the deductions you qualify for and save you time and money in the process. We can hear you breathing easier already!

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TAXES What Are Business Expenses?


What Are Business Expenses?

What Are Business Expenses?


There’s an old cliché that you have to spend money to make money. It’s the kind of thing your broke finance professor says over his glasses as he tries to tell you how smart it is to take out a huge small-business loan. (Note: Do not do this.) But, like all clichés, it does have some basis in fact. As it turns out, it is not free to run a business. If you have a business, you will have business expenses.

So, what are business expenses? They’re a little bit of everything: start-up costs, equipment you have to buy or rent, the money you spend on a place to do business (like an office or a storefront) and a bunch of other little things you never would’ve thought about before you ventured out into the wild world of business.

So, let’s talk about them.

What are business expenses?

Business expenses are the costs of running your business day-to-day. On your income statement, your business expenses are subtracted from your revenue. What’s left is your net taxable income. These “ordinary and necessary” expenses (as determined by the IRS) that keep your business running can be deducted from your taxes.

What are some examples of deductible business expenses?

If an expense meets the “ordinary and necessary” rule set by the IRS, it’s generally tax-deductible. But certain expenses like meals and gifts are only partially deductible. Here are some of the business expenses you can fully deduct from your taxes:


Business taxes can be confusing. Get the help you need.

  • Office supplies
  • Rent on a building used for your business (could be an office, storefront or warehouse)
  • Insurance costs
  • Wages paid to employees (including independent contractors)
  • Employee benefit programs
  • Equipment rentals
  • Bank fees
  • Accounting expenses (including tax preparation)
  • Utility expenses like power, internet and phone systems
  • Legal fees
  • Membership dues (such as to a professional organization)
  • Printing and copying expenses
  • Marketing and advertising expenses
  • Payroll taxes
  • Interest paid

Okay, about this last one: We would never recommend you go into debt to start or run your business. Debt increases your risk exponentially and causes nothing but stress. But, if you already have a business loan, you can and should deduct the interest payments. Then make sure you pay off that sucker and never borrow again. Okay?

What types of things are not deductible?

So, there are a couple of things you might consider to be business expenses that you actually can’t deduct when it’s time to do your taxes. Things in this category include:

  • Donations to political campaigns or political action committees
  • Memberships to social clubs or country clubs (even if you take clients for dinner or the occasional round of golf)
  • Anything illegal like bribes or kickbacks (which, of course, you wouldn’t do anyway)
  • Gifts over $25 in value
  • Tickets to sporting events or concerts

This is where it’s really important to consult a tax pro like one of our small-business tax Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) to help you sort out which expenses are kosher. It can save you a ton of money and hassle.

How to keep track of business expenses

Any successful business owner knows how much money you have going out and coming in. That’s how you know if your business is profitable or not. So, you need to keep track of what you’re spending. It’s just common sense.

Another good reason to keep track of your business expenses is to keep your personal finances separate from your business finances. Sometimes, especially for small-business owners or people who are self-employed, that can be a challenge.

For example: Can you claim a home office as a deductible business expense? You can, actually, as long as it’s a separate room in your house and you don’t use it for anything else.

If you use a car for work, there are a couple of different ways to track those expenses. The easiest way is to keep track of how many miles you drive while on business. This is perfect for self-employed people or those who drive their personal cars for work. The current rate for calculating the mileage deduction is 58 cents per mile.1

If you own a car that you only use for business, you can track the mileage or keep detailed maintenance records and collect all of your fuel receipts—whichever gets you the biggest deduction.

Get a pro to help you with your business tax expenses

Of course, the absolute best way to keep track of your business expenses is to get a small-business tax expert to help you. Our small-business tax Endorsed Local Providers can help you with everything from bookkeeping to filing your taxes when it’s that time of year. They can help keep you on track with your quarterly tax estimates, and if there are ever changes to the tax code, your pro can be there to make sure you don’t mess anything up.

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TAXES The 5 Huge Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early



The 5 Huge Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early


With over 70% of taxpayers receiving an income tax refund each year of $2,900 on average according to the IRS, we can’t think of any reason you’d want to delay filing your taxes.(1)

But, as awesome as it is to have more cash in your pocket, that’s not the only benefit of early filing. Here are a few more reasons to get your act together early this tax season:

1. Early filers average larger refunds.

IRS data shows that taxpayers who file by late-February get significantly larger refunds than those who file later—around $200 on average.(2,3) Obviously, if you know you’re getting a refund, you’re more likely to file sooner, and that could be part of the reason early filers enjoy larger refunds.

But another reason is that the sooner you start on your taxes, the more opportunity you have to make sure you’re claiming all the deductions you’re eligible for, which takes more time and documentation than claiming the standard deduction.

2. Early filers can protect their refunds from identity thieves.

Filing early may not eliminate the threat of identity theft, but it can protect your refund. If thieves file a return using your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will kick out your return since their records show you’ve already been paid. It can take months to clear up the mess with the IRS and finally receive your refund.


Don’t let taxes stress you out. A tax pro is the way to go!

3. Early filers eliminate tax deadline stress.

Any time you face an unpleasant task, it’s best to get it out of the way as soon as possible. Income taxes are no different. You have to fill out the forms and you have to file them, so just grit your teeth and get it over with. Give yourself a fake deadline—well ahead of the April deadline—to get your taxes taken care of. Once your return is filed, give yourself a small reward for being so efficient and responsible. Then relax while everyone else stresses out about getting their taxes done on time.

4. Early filers with a tax bill have time to make a plan.

When you’re facing an income tax bill instead of a refund, it’s natural to put off filing as long as possible. But if you go ahead and fill out your tax forms and file them, you’ll know exactly how much you have to pay—and you won’t have to pay in full until the April filing deadline.

The more time you have to come up with the money, the less likely you are to bust your budget or drain your emergency fund. So, don’t spend the first part of the year with your head in the sand. Get the facts about what you owe, make your plan, and get that tax bill out of the way.

Tip: Save time and reduce hassle by gathering the right paperwork the first time around. Download your free tax preparation checklist.

5. Early filers face less competition for access to their tax professional.

If you found out the hard way that it’s tough to get on a good tax pro’s schedule during crunch time. In fact, if you haven’t set an appointment with a pro by the middle of March, you may have to file an extension.

On top of that, some tax pros will charge more to complete your taxes as the filing deadline approaches. The best way to avoid all that hassle is to get an appointment with your advisor as soon as possible.

Not sure if you need a tax pro? Take our quiz and find out!

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5 Simple Steps to File Your Taxes


5 Simple Steps to File Your Taxes

5 Simple Steps to File Your Taxes


Does the thought of tax season make you break out in hives? Fear no more! Our easy, step-by-step guide will help you prepare your taxes without even breaking a sweat!

Most people dread this time of year because of all the filing and paperwork involved with taxes. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way! Preparing your taxes can actually be a simple, no-stress process if you do a little work on the front end. All it takes is some organization and time.

Step 1: Know the Tax Filing Deadline

Mark your calendars: Your 2018 tax return is due Monday, April 15, 2019.(1) Income and investment interest forms should be mailed to you by January 31. So keep an eye out for those documents. If you haven’t received your tax statements by the first or second week of February, call the necessary people to be sure you receive your paperwork in plenty of time to get your taxes done.

Step 2: Gather Your Tax Documents

In order to do your taxes, you need to collect all of your tax documents. This includes your:

  • W-2s
  • 1099s
  • Mortgage interest statements
  • Investment income statements

To help get organized, download our free tax preparation checklist.


Don’t let taxes stress you out. A tax pro is the way to go!

If you plan on itemizing deductions, you’ll need proof to back up your claims. So don’t forget any receipts for deductions like:

  • Childcare
  • Education costs
  • Charitable giving
  • Home improvements

If this is your first season filing taxes as a married couple, congrats! There are several tax tips newlyweds should know. To keep your tax prep running smoothly, here are a few more documents you may need to add to your list:

  • Form 8822 (if you moved)
  • SS-5 (if you changed your name)
  • W-4 (to adjust tax withholdings based on your new household income)

When in doubt, keep documents and receipts on file until it’s tax time. If you can’t find what you need, you can almost always request replacement copies. You’ll be glad to have these documents on hand in case you discover you can use them when filing your taxes.

Step 3: Organize Paperwork

Purchase a few manila folders, an accordion file or a filing system that will hold your tax documents. In one folder, put all paperwork dealing with income: W-2s, 1099s and investment interest statements.

In another folder, file paperwork for your deductions such as mortgage interest, property taxes, charitable giving and student loan interest.

Create a third folder to file receipts for deductions that aren’t in the form of statements, such as medical and home improvement expenses.

Step 4: File Your Taxes

Once you have all your documents organized, you’re ready to file your taxes! But which filing option should you choose?

According to a 2017 survey, most Americans chose to either hire a professional (32%) or use commercial tax software (35%) when they filed the previous year.(2)

Let’s take a closer look at online versus tax pro filing options to help you determine which is best for you.

Online programs like TurboTax can be straightforward if your situation is pretty simple and you’re planning to take the standard deduction.

However, if your tax return is more complicated—like if you own a business or know you need to itemize your deductions—it’s worth it to hire a tax professional.

You should be confident about filing your taxes this year, whether you choose to file on your own or use a tax pro.

Still not sure which option is best for your situation? Take our simple quiz!

Step 5: Relax!

Your taxes have been filed and you no longer have to worry about missing that April deadline. Thanks to your new organizational system, next year’s taxes will be a breeze.

Remember to promptly file any tax documents when you receive them so you don’t have to search the house for them next year. And once you’ve filed your taxes, save the documents for at least three years.

See? That wasn’t so bad. Was it? If you just take a little time and energy to implement these five steps throughout tax season, you’ll be set. Plus, you’ll eliminate the stress and worry if you’re organized on the front end.

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