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Tax Tips for Last-Minute Filers

Tax tips for last-minute filers

Filing your taxes can be stressful. Filing at the last minute can only add to the stress. As April 15th looms closer, the annual flurry of last-minute tax filers begins. Whether due to procrastination or complexity, many individuals find themselves scrambling to organize their finances and complete their tax returns before the deadline. If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, there’s no need to panic just yet. While the rush can be stressful, there are several strategies and tax tips for last-minute filers to help navigate this period efficiently and accurately. 

Know Your Facts

The most important fact to keep in mind is the tax deadline. In 2024, the tax deadline is April 15th. Other than this deadline, it’s vital to understand your specific tax situation, especially since it can vary from year to year. New changes like getting married, having a child, starting a business, or purchasing a home can alter your tax situation. Knowing which credits you can claim, or which forms you’re required to submit can help prevent last-minute errors and stress. 

Gather All Necessary Documents 

The first step for any tax filer, especially those running against the clock, is to gather all relevant documents. This includes W-2 forms from employers, 1099 forms for freelance or contract work, receipts for deductible expenses, investment income statements, and any other financial documents pertinent to your tax situation. Having all necessary paperwork on hand will streamline the filing process and minimize the chances of errors or omissions. 

Utilize Tax Preparation Software 

Tax preparation software can be a lifesaver for last-minute filers. They provide step-by-step guidance, automatic calculations, and error-checking features to simplify the filing process. These platforms also offer electronic filing options, which can expedite the submission of your return and ensure faster processing by the IRS. Additionally, many tax software providers offer mobile apps, allowing you to file directly from your smartphone or tablet for added convenience. 

Maximize Your Deductions and Credits

It’s not uncommon for taxpayers to overpay taxes or receive a smaller refund because they did not take advantage of all the tax deductions and credits they qualify for. Rushing through your taxes can help contribute to this. Common deductions include expenses related to homeownership, education, medical costs, and charitable contributions. Similarly, tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Education Credits can provide significant savings. Take the time to review available deductions and credits to maximize your tax refund or minimize the amount owed. If you’re unsure, ask your tax preparer about your specific tax situation. 

Check for Accuracy

Amid the frenzy of last-minute filing, it’s easy to make mistakes or overlook important details on your tax return. Once you have all the forms completed and ready to be submitted, you should check everything for accuracy. Double-check numerical entries, ensure that your personal information is accurate, and verify that you’ve claimed all applicable deductions and credits. Even a small error could result in delays in processing or trigger an IRS audit, so attention to detail is crucial. 

File Electronically and Opt for Direct Deposit

When time is of the essence, filing your taxes electronically is the fastest and most secure option. E-filing a complete and accurate return will also mean receiving your refund faster. E-filing eliminates the need for paper forms and postage, expediting the processing of your return and reducing the risk of errors. Additionally, opting for direct deposit for any tax refunds can further accelerate the receipt of your funds. Refunds issued via direct deposit are typically deposited into your bank account within a few weeks, whereas paper checks may take significantly longer to arrive by mail.

Seek Professional Assistance if Necessary 

If your tax situation is particularly complex or you’re unsure about certain aspects of your return, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance. Certified public accountants (CPAs) and tax preparers have the expertise and knowledge to navigate intricate tax scenarios and ensure compliance with ever-changing tax laws. While professional tax assistance may come with a fee, the peace of mind and potential savings from maximizing deductions or avoiding penalties can outweigh the cost. 

Tax Relief for Last-Minute Filers

Sometimes filing last minute is a necessity, but it is best to avoid this scenario whenever possible. Tax rules can change year to year so starting the filing process early is one of the few ways you can make the process run more smoothly. By following these tips and remaining organized, last-minute filers can successfully navigate the deadline rush and submit accurate tax returns. Remember to gather all necessary documents, consider filing for an extension if needed, utilize tax preparation software, maximize deductions and credits, review for accuracy, file electronically, and seek professional assistance if necessary. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can meet the tax deadline with confidence. 

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Ask Phil: Top 5 Tax Tips for 2024 

Today, Phil discusses his top 5 tax tips for 2024.  

Tax Tip #5: Gather Your Tax Documents Early 

Most tax forms, including your W-2s and most 1099s, should be sent to you by January 31. However, there are some tax documents that come in a bit later. For example, 1099-B and 1099-MISC are due to recipients by February 15. 1095 health coverage forms are due by March 1. Be sure to wait for all your documents to arrive before filing your tax return.  

Tax Tip #4: Don’t Forget About Estimated Tax Payments 

If you are a small business owner, investor, landlord, or any taxpayer who receives income outside your normal job, you might need to pay estimated quarterly taxes. The 2024 quarterly tax payment deadlines are April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15, 2025. Knowing these deadlines can help avoid tax penalties. You can use Form 1040-ES to calculate your estimated tax for the year. 

Tax Tip #3: Don’t Wait on Your Tax Refund 

In general, it takes about 21 days to receive your tax refund. However, some returns may take more time to review than others. That said, it’s best to not rely on your tax refund to make a big purchase or cover large expenses. You can use the online Where’s My Refund tool on the IRS’s website to track your refund status within 24 hours after e-filing and within 4 weeks of mailing a paper return. 

Tax Tip #2: Report 1099-K Income – Even If You Don’t Receive the Form 

If you receive payments on Venmo, PayPal, Etsy, eBay, or other third-party sites for your business, you probably know what a 1099-K is. The 1099-K reporting thresholds have changed quite a bit in the last couple of years, making the topic confusing for many small businesses. In short, if you receive income from these third-party payment networks, you must report it on your tax return, even if you do not receive a 1099-K form. This income is still considered taxable income, which means not reporting it can result in taxes owed to the IRS. 

Tax Tip #1: Create an IRS Online Account 

The IRS Online Account allows taxpayers to access various services and information related to their tax obligations. Taxpayers can access their tax return transcripts, make payments, access IRS notices and letters, apply for installment agreements, view payment histories, and more. Put simply, it helps you know where you stand with the IRS. 

Join us next Friday as Phil will answer your questions about FinCEN! 

If you need help with your taxes in 2024, contact us today for a Free Consultation 

Tax Tips for 2023

tax tips for 2023

The 2023 tax filing season will be different than the past few years. That said, getting prepared early can help make the process much easier. Some of the changes expected in 2023 could affect tax bills, which in turn could affect tax refunds. Here are some tax tips for 2023.  

Wait for Form 1099-K Before Filing 

Perhaps the most notable change for tax year 2022 is the reporting rule change for Form 1099-K. The form reports all funds received through third-party payment networks like Venmo and PayPal. With the rise of small businesses and gig work, a large number of taxpayers are expected to receive this form. This is especially since the reporting threshold has changed. Prior to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Form 1099-K was not sent out unless a taxpayer collected more than 200 transactions valued at an aggregate above $20,000. Now, that threshold has dramatically decreased to just $600. 1099-Ks must be sent out by January 31, 2023, which would make filing at the end of February or early March ideal for taxpayers. The IRS is urging everyone to wait until they receive these forms before filing. Failing to include this income can have serious, negative consequences. 

Consider Changes to Tax Credits 

Another major change for tax year 2022 is the end of expanded pandemic-era tax credits. Some of these credits, including the Child Tax Credit (CTC), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child and Dependent Care Credit will return to pre-COVID levels. For example, the expanded CTC which previously granted $3,600 per dependent in 2021 will be reduced to $2,000 for the 2022 tax year. In 2021, eligible taxpayers without children received about $1,500 for the EITC but that amount will drop to about $500 for 2022. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is returning to a maximum of $2,100, down from 2021’s maximum of $8,000. These changes can drastically affect tax refunds so taxpayers should plan accordingly. 

Check Eligibility for a Clean Vehicle Credit 

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 amended the Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit, also known as the Clean Vehicle Credit. If you purchased a new electric vehicle after August 16, 2022, you may be eligible for a tax credit. To qualify, your purchased vehicle must have finished assembly in North America. You can check the Department of Energy’s list of approved vehicles. If you purchased an electric vehicle before August 16, 2022 but did not take possession of the vehicle until on or after August 16, 2022, you may still claim the credit. In this scenario, the final assembly of your vehicle does not need to be in North America. The credit is worth up to $7,500.  

Tax Relief for Taxpayers 

Steps can and should be taken to prepare for 2023 tax filing season. These new changes can result in a more stressful tax season. Working with a qualified and dedicated tax professional can help ease the process. Optima Tax Relief has a team of dedicated and experienced tax professionals with proven track records of success.  

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

How Home Equity Loans Affect Taxes

how home equity loans affect taxes

Sometimes the idea of taking out a second mortgage is a necessity. It can be a viable solution to eliminating debt, funding home renovations, or paying off unexpected medical bills. Before taking out a home equity loan, you should know the tax implications that come with it. Here’s how home equity loans affect taxes.

What is a home equity loan? 

Also known as a second mortgage, a home equity loan is a type of consumer debt that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their residence. The equity that you have accumulated through mortgage payments is used as collateral. The loan is paid out to you in a lump sum. Then it’s repaid with interest at a fixed rate each month for a set number of years.  

How much can I borrow with a home equity loan? 

Typically, the max you may borrow is around 80% to 85% of your home’s appraised value less the remaining balance on your mortgage. For example, let’s say your home is valued at $500,000, your mortgage balance is $200,000, and your lender will allow you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value. 

$500,000 x 80% = $400,000  

$400,000 – $200,000 = $200,000 maximum loan amount 

In this scenario, you may borrow up to $200,000. The principal would be repaid at a fixed rate each month for a set number of years. This is in addition to your regular mortgage payment, hence the term “second mortgage.” 

How Do Home Equity Loans Affect My Taxes? 

Like many other loans, the interest on a home equity loan can be tax deductible, but there are some limitations. If you used funds from the loan to “buy, build, or substantially improve” the home that was used to secure the loan, the interest is tax deductible. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you can’t deduct loan interest if it was used for another purpose. The amount of interest that may be deducted will also depend on your filing status.  

Tax Relief for Homeowners 

Deducting home equity loan interest only makes sense if your itemized deductible expenses are more than the amount of the standard deduction. If you choose to deduct home equity loan interest, youll need to use IRS Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement. Tax planning can be incredibly stressful and intimidating, especially when taking new actions such as deducting loan interest. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with tough tax situations.  

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

How to Manage Finances as a Single Individual 

how to manage finances as a single individual

As the cost of living continues to rise, it is becoming increasingly difficult for single individuals to live comfortably. Without the safety net of a second income, the need to manage finances as a single individual is more important than ever. The process comes with unique benefits and challenges, both throughout the year and during tax time.  

Budget Tips for Single Individuals 

There are countless budget strategies you can use as a single individual. Some of the most popular ones are the 50/30/20 budget and the zero-based budget. 

50/30/20 Budget 

One of the most popular methods is the 50/30/20 budget, in which you spend about half of your after-tax income on necessities. This includes bills, groceries, housing, and all the other items that are necessary to live. Thirty percent of your income should then go to your “wants”, like dinners, entertainment, and travel. The final 20% should be designated for savings and debt repayment. These percentages can be altered to fit your own specific needs. 

Zero-Based Budget 

In the zero-based budget strategy, every dollar you earn is allocated to a specific expense. A certain dollar amount goes to housing, another goes to utilities, another goes to debt, and so on until every dollar in your paycheck is assigned to one expense. At the end of the pay period, whatever is left over is sent to your savings. This strategy is especially helpful in preventing impulse spending. 

Retirement Tips for Single Individuals 

The key to retirement savings is understanding that the earlier you start, the better. Let’s say two people begin saving $100 per month. One begins at age 25 and the other begins at age 35. The one who begins saving earlier will have nearly twice as much savings by age 65. Prioritizing any portion of your income for retirement can really maximize your savings, especially if you take advantage of employer contributions.  

Automate and Maximize Your Saving 

Having an emergency fund that can cover three to six months of expenses is crucial if you don’t have a second income to rely on if you lose your job or cannot work. Automating your savings can help you reach your goals faster. You can create automatic bank account transfers or even use mobile apps that schedule money transfers from your checking account to your savings account or online account. While you’re at it, you can maximize your savings by opening a high-yield savings account that will accrue interest at a higher rate than a typical savings account. 

Tax Relief for Single Individuals 

During tax season, it’s important to know which tax bracket you’ll fall into as a single filer. The federal income tax bracket for 2023 is as follows: 

  • 10%: $0 – $11,000
  • 12%: $11,001 – $44,725 
  • 22%: $44,726 – $95,375 
  • 24%: $95,376 – $182,100
  • 32%: $182,101 – $231,250 
  • 35%: $231,251 – $578,125
  • 37%: $578,126 and up

Single filers do not qualify for deductions that many families take advantage of, so it’s also important to learn which ones you are eligible for in order to reduce your taxable income, and even your tax bracket. Remember, the tax bracket ranges above are based on taxable income, and not the actual amount of earned income you receive. In other words, the tax bracket is based on your income after deductions and credits are taken. Doing taxes on your own can be intimidating and stressful. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over $1 billion in resolved tax liabilities.  

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation