Tax season 2020 will look different: Here's how to prepare
(BPT) - It’s no secret that 2020 has been a tumultuous year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans found themselves out of work — at least temporarily — and received unemployment benefits. Others may have experienced employment changes, like working from home or taking on multiple jobs. All of these factors will have even more of an impact come time to file income taxes on tax day, April 15, 2021.
“For many, the 2020 tax season will likely look different,” says Mark Steber, Chief Tax Information Officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Services. “The pandemic brought unexpected, overwhelming changes.”
To help you prepare and get the maximum tax refund you deserve, Steber offers the following tax tips.
1. Understand how unemployment benefits work
If you received unemployment benefits this year, it may have been for the first time. Make sure you’re aware of how they affect your taxes.
Unemployment benefits are taxable and must be reported to the IRS on your tax return. Taxable benefits also include any special compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act earlier this year. That means if you did not withhold enough taxes from your unemployment benefits, you could see a big tax bill or a much smaller tax refund than you normally receive.
Unemployment benefits can affect tax credits. Unemployment is considered unearned income, so it won’t count toward certain credits. For example, you must have earned income to qualify for the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit. Additionally, your adjusted gross income must be below certain levels to get certain credits.
2. Set money aside to cover unexpected taxes
If you received unemployment benefits and did not withhold any federal or state income tax, you’ll need to pay tax on that money. To prepare, consider setting money aside now to cover those taxes on your 2020 return and brace yourself for a much smaller refund or no refund at all this tax season.
3. Take advantage of possible deductions
Every taxpayer will get a charitable donation deduction for 2020. Make a list of any IRS-approved donations you made this year and locate any receipts. Whether itemizing or taking the standard deduction, under the CARES Act, all taxpayers are eligible to deduct up to $300 worth of monetary donations to qualified organizations.
And while many Americans have been working at home for months, a home office deduction is not guaranteed. The home office deduction is only available to those who are self-employed.
4. Consider major life changes
Life goes on, even during a pandemic, and life changes can bring sizeable tax implications. Some changes that cause the biggest impact include getting married or divorced, having a baby or adopting a child, buying or selling property, retiring, or starting a business. If you experienced any of these events in 2020, know that your return will look different.
5. Keep track of important documents
Even if your taxes won’t be affected by unemployment, make sure you gather all your documents, such as W-2 forms and 1099s for interest dividends and even retirement distributions. Remember to include the Notice 1444 you received with your stimulus check for your 2020 tax records. Collect your charitable contribution totals, mortgage interest, property taxes you’ve paid, and any additional state and local income taxes paid for the year. If you were furloughed and able to pick up a temporary job, gather your W-2s for each job you worked. If you worked a side gig, make sure to keep a record of your income, the miles you drove, and any additional expenses. And if you’re not filing single, be on the lookout for family members that may have been impacted to make your tax return more complicated.
No matter your 2020 situation, follow these tips to prepare for any unexpected tax implications. For more information and help during the 2020 tax season, visit jacksonhewitt.com.
Want to reach your money goals? Here's a four-step process to achieve your dreams!
(BPT) - The new year is just around the corner and it’s never too early to think about your 2020 goals — and for many, this means prioritizing finances. Taking the time to focus on your goals and determine what’s important to you financially is the best way to set yourself up for success, but actually following through can be difficult. These easy financial exercises from Vanderbilt Mortgage will help you reach your goals in the new decade.
1. Outline your plan
If you don’t already have one, establish your plan. Write down short-term financial goals, such as creating a monthly budget, and long-term goals, such as paying off a debt or buying a home. Defining these goals will help as you set your budget for the next year.
2. Create a monthly budget
Gather pay statements, bills and bank statements to get started. You can write down all this information or use a budget tool. Start by calculating your monthly income, which includes not only the amount you may get from a regular paycheck, but also any money you get in government aid, child support or pensions. The next step is to look at your bills and bank statements to find out exactly what you spend in various categories of expenses such as utilities, auto, medical, personal, insurance, etc. This accurate information will empower you to take control of your spending.
3. Set a savings goal
Saving is another important aspect of financial health. Whether you’re using a general savings account, adding to an emergency fund, or setting aside funds for a new home, saving for larger financial goals helps you prepare and gives you peace of mind no matter where life takes you. If you’re new to saving, start small. Simply skipping your daily latte from the coffee shop a few times a week can add up quickly.
4. Stick to it
The statistics on how many people actually follow through and keep their New Year’s resolutions are rather bleak, but sticking with your financial goals will pay off. Stay on track by monitoring your progress each week. As you get closer to your goals, excitement will build and you’ll be motivated to keep budgeting and saving.
Vanderbilt Mortgage offers helpful online resources whether you are looking to purchase a new home or keep your current home in great shape. “Here at Vanderbilt, we want to use our years of experience to help current and future homeowners.” Said Eric Hamilton, President of Vanderbilt Mortgage, “Providing educational materials for every step of homeownership is one of the ways Vanderbilt is with customers every step of the way.”
Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, (http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking. Sponsored ad content from Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.
With the increasing likelihood that Social Security and Medicare benefits may be reduced in the future, it’s more important than ever to use every technique available to maximize your retirement savings. These three outside-the-box strategies could make an enormous difference in your retirement readiness. The sooner you start, the more you may save.
(BPT) - Individuals who rushed to prepay property taxes after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may have saved some money in 2018 — but that’s pennies compared to the long-term tax savings taxpayers should take advantage of before the TCJA’s individual tax provisions are expected to expire in 2026, according to Robert Fishbein, vice president and corporate counsel at Prudential Financial.
Also expected to expire in 2026? According to trustees for Social Security, that’s when Medicare’s main trust fund will run out of money. With the increasing likelihood that Social Security and Medicare benefits may be reduced in the future, it’s more important than ever to use every technique available to maximize your retirement savings.
Three outside-the-box strategies could make an enormous difference in your retirement readiness. The sooner you start, the more you may save.
Fund an HSA for retirement health care
Estimates suggest even a healthy 65-year-old couple will need at least $275,000 to cover retirement health care costs. A Health Savings Account, or HSA, provides a way to save that money without paying a dime in taxes. An HSA account is available to individuals enrolled in a high deductible health insurance plan.
First, these individuals can fund their HSA through a tax-deductible contribution or pre-tax payroll deduction. Second, any interest and investment gains are tax-free. Finally, the funds can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses— a triple tax advantage over a traditional savings account.
The best part? There is no requirement to use HSA funds in the year of contribution, which means funds can grow on a tax-favored basis for future health care expense needs.
For 2018, family contribution limits are $6,900, or $7,900 if you are 55 or older, and those amounts are indexed for inflation in future years. If you start contributing the maximum even as late as age 55, and earn 3 percent per year, you could have more than $90,000 to pay for your retirement health care by age 65. If you start contributing the maximum as early as age 40, you could have saved almost $270,000. These funds will continue to grow tax-free in retirement until you need them.
If you don’t use HSA funds in full before you die, excess funds are subject to income tax, but will be otherwise available for your heirs.
Consider a Roth IRA conversion
The typical dogma says that converting an IRA or traditional 401(k) to a Roth IRA does not make sense if you expect your tax rate in retirement to be lower than at the time of conversion. However, lesser known benefits of a Roth IRA may make it worthwhile to have at least part of your retirement assets in Roth IRA form.
Start with no required minimum distributions. With a Roth you aren’t forced to draw down your funds once you attain age 70½ and can continue to benefit from the tax-free growth, thereby maximizing the after-tax funds eventually available for you or your heirs.
Another significant benefit of a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) is tax diversification. For example, you may choose to take taxable distributions up to a certain amount and then tax-free distributions to avoid a higher income tax bracket.
If you are a high-income taxpayer, Roth IRA distributions are not considered income when determining thresholds for increased Medicare premium charges or the 3.8 percent income tax surcharge on investment gain. If your income is more modest, Roth IRA distributions are not considered income when determining whether you are subject to income tax on Social Security benefits.
If anything, a conversion is more attractive now since you have an opportunity to convert and pay income tax with marginal rates that are generally lower than under prior law. Since individual tax law changes are temporary and tax rates will revert to the former higher amounts starting in 2026, you have an eight-year window to benefit from lower rates.
Make “backdoor” Roth IRA contributions
The tax law prescribes income limits so high-income individuals may not make a direct contribution to a Roth IRA. However, there are no income limits on converting traditional IRA funds to a Roth IRA.
Any person under age 70.5 who has earned income by year-end can make an IRA contribution. While income limits may prevent you from making a pre-tax contribution, you can make this contribution even if you have fully funded a 401(k) or another employer plan.
Once you have made your contribution to a traditional IRA, simply convert that amount to your Roth IRA. As long as this is your only traditional IRA and you have made an after-tax contribution, then an immediate conversion will have converted a tax-deferred asset into a potentially tax-free asset. If you have multiple IRAs, the IRAs are aggregated to determine how much is taxable upon conversion.
While we spend much time on our investment strategies to help gain an extra percentage or two of investment yield, these tax planning strategies can be a more reliable way of maximizing your after-tax retirement income and wealth for your family — no matter how Social Security and Medicare turn out.
Prudential Financial, its affiliates, and their financial professionals do not render tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax and legal advisors regarding your personal circumstances.
State laws determine the process for surrendering the manufactured home title when the home is permanently affixed to the land, becomes part of the real estate, and is no longer considered personal property separate from the land. Like manufactured homes, modular homes are also constructed indoors, sheltered from the elements. But unlike manufactured homes, modular homes do not require a title. Since they are built to International Residential Code standards and not the HUD Code, ownership of modular homes is treated the same as site-built homes.
(BPT) - On June 15, 1976, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) instituted the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards — more commonly referred to as the “HUD Code.”
With these regulations, HUD defined the safety and quality standards required for construction of a manufactured home.
This was a pivotal moment for the manufactured home industry. Prior to the HUD Code, these homes were built with portability as a primary focus and were commonly referred to as “mobile homes” — hence the difference in terms.
You will often see the terms “mobile” and “manufactured” used interchangeably. But, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute, the HUD code draws a line of distinction between the two.
A mobile home refers to a home manufactured prior to the standards set by the HUD Code. Back then, the homes were built to voluntary industry standards enforced at the state level in 45 out of the 48 states in the continental U.S.
With the birth of the HUD Code, manufactured home now refers to a factory-built home constructed to those federal standards.
The HUD Code regulates, among other things, energy-efficiency standards, durability, transportability and quality. It also sets standards for the performance of HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems.
While the difference in quality between today’s manufactured homes and pre-HUD Code mobile homes is evident, you may be wondering how the terms “mobile” and “manufactured” are so often confused.
One similarity that may be the biggest contributor to the confusion is titling.
Like the mobile homes built prior to HUD Code, modern manufactured homes also require a title. So what does that mean?
Requirements for titling vary by state, but generally a manufactured home requires a title much like an automobile. This is because a manufactured home is considered personal property.
As personal property, a manufactured home is typically taxed separately from the land on which it sits. Visit https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/ for more general information on state-specific laws regarding the titling of manufactured homes.
State laws determine the process for surrendering the manufactured home title when the home is permanently affixed to the land, becomes part of the real estate, and is no longer considered personal property separate from the land.
Like manufactured homes, modular homes are also constructed indoors, sheltered from the elements. But unlike manufactured homes, modular homes do not require a title. Since they are built to International Residential Code standards and not the HUD Code, ownership of modular homes is treated the same as site-built homes.
For more information from Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Inc. about manufactured or modular homes, visit www.vmfhomeloan.com/first-time-buyers/.
Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, (http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, Licensed by the NH Banking Department, MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking.
Retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now." Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
(BPT) - You're 10 years or less away from retirement. You can clearly see the next phase of your life down the road and it's coming up fast. Are you ready for it? Do you have a comprehensive plan in place so you don't outlive your savings?
If you're not as prepared for retirement as you should be, you're not alone. The Federal Reserve did a study and found that one-fourth of Americans have no retirement savings or pension. And a Money article reports 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved.
Why aren't more people prepared? There are myriad reasons. Some people are stretched thin. Credit card debt, student loans, rising mortgage and interest rates all conspire to make it difficult for them to save. Others may lack information on the importance of retirement savings, or lack the financial savvy to be comfortable managing their own investments. And then there's the gap between men and women. The Federal Reserve’s study found that among women with any level of education, investment comfort is lower than among similarly educated men.
Yet, retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now."
That's why the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a national organization representing Fee-Only financial advisors, conducted a poll of its members to get their top tips and advice for people who are nearing retirement. They want to raise consumer awareness about the urgency of preparing for retirement and the importance of having a comprehensive plan in place.
Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
1. Make a list of retirement “needs” and “wants.” If you do not have enough savings for all of your “needs,” make a ten-year plan to increase your funds.
2. Take a hard look at any major debts you have and develop a plan to eliminate them.
3. Brainstorm any “big ticket” financial commitments (caretaking for a family member, etc.) for the next 10 years and consider how these items might affect your ability to save for retirement.
4. Continually monitor and analyze your asset allocation to make sure it is the right one for you. Understand whether you should move to a more conservative asset allocation or continue investing for growth.
5. Be tax efficient with your investments. For example, you should defer as much of your salary as you can to your defined contribution plans.
6. Save to an emergency fund and stay aware of your company’s financial situation. Companies are prone to reorganizations and layoffs, and older workers can be vulnerable.
7. Ask your HR department about the relationship between your current health insurance and Medicare, as well as what your options are when you reach age 65. Get information about any pension or defined contribution options and any other retiree benefits.
8. Research when stock-based compensation might expire and what stock awards you can retain after retirement.
9. Double check your reported Social Security earnings and resolve any discrepancies now. Explore your Social Security claiming options and make sure you understand the timing of applying for benefits.
10. Make sure that all of your estate documents are up-to-date. Verify that your named executors and proxies know your wishes and are willing to act on them if needed.
If you think you’ll need help creating and sticking to a financial plan, NAPFA recommends working with a Fee-Only financial advisor who adheres to a strict fiduciary standard. These advisors are required to put your best interest first and don’t accept commissions on the products they recommend, which reduces potential conflicts of interest. For more information and resources on retirement planning, check out NAPFA’s infographic about the poll. To find a Fee-Only financial advisor in your area, visit the NAPFA website at www.napfa.org and NAPFA’s “Find an Advisor” search engine.
With tax season in full swing, take time to consider how to get the most out of your tax return, which includes finding all the credits and deductions available to you. These often-overlooked tax breaks could potentially save you hundreds – maybe even thousands – of dollars if you itemize deductions.
Don’t Overpay Your Taxes
Commonly overlooked credits and deductions
(Family Features) With tax season in full swing, take time to consider how to get the most out of your tax return, which includes finding all the credits and deductions available to you. While many taxpayers claim common deductions, such as home mortgage interest and self-employment expenses, there are additional tax deductions that can lessen your final tax bill or increase your refund. These often-overlooked tax breaks could potentially save you hundreds - maybe even thousands - of dollars if you itemize deductions.
To start, get to know the difference between tax credits and tax deductions. Tax credits reduce the amount you owe in taxes. In some circumstances, tax credits allow a refundable credit, meaning you may not only reduce the amount you owe to $0, but you can also get money back. Deductions, on the other hand, simply reduce your taxable income. Both can have a potentially significant impact on your taxes and are often worth the extra effort to include on your return.
Some commonly overlooked credits include:
1. Child and Dependent Care Credit
2. Earned Income Tax Credit
3. Saver's Credit or the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit
Some tax deductions that allow you to reduce your taxable income include:
1. Moving Expenses
2. Tax-Preparation Fees
3. New Moms
4. Career Corner
5. Wedding Bells
6. Medical Fitness
7. Road Warriors
If you're getting a refund, you typically want it as soon as possible, but that isn't always an option, especially if you are one of the millions of Americans who claim either the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. You could access up to $3,200 with a no-fee Refund Advance loan at zero percent annual percentage rate (APR), offered by MetaBank, at participating Jackson Hewitt locations. Terms apply, visit JacksonHewitt.com for details.
Did You Know?
1. The IRS, as well as many states, allows taxpayers to catch up on missed credits or deductions, offering a three-year window for filing an amended tax return. You can secure unclaimed credits and deductions by filing amended tax returns to avoid losing any unclaimed funds from as far back as 2014.
2. With locations across the United States, including kiosks in 3,000 Walmart stores, the tax professionals at Jackson Hewitt make it easy to stop in when it's most convenient for you.
3. If you are a single parent, you can file as Head of Household instead of Single. This filing status can provide better deduction options and a lower tax rate schedule.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images (Woman looking at computer, Man sitting on the floor with papers)SOURCE:
(BPT) - As many Americans know, fall is the season when we must select our health benefits for the upcoming year. Choosing a health plan can be a daunting task, but selecting the right coverage protects you and your family's general health needs and can prepare you for an unexpected medical crisis. While no one plans on receiving a blood cancer diagnosis, for example, an estimated 173,000 Americans were diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2017. As there are no means of preventing or early screening for most blood cancers, a diagnosis can often appear without warning. Well-planned health insurance coverage can make an important difference in how patients can fare in fighting the disease.
This year's open enrollment season, which runs approximately from October to December, is your opportunity to consider your health benefits and plan ahead. With the cost of care for major health events and severe illnesses increasing every year, you will want to select a health plan that ensures you and your family are prepared in the case of a health emergency. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) offers three tips to consider when selecting your 2018 health plan.
Compare physician and hospital networks: Be diligent when choosing a plan. While it is important to compare plan prices, including co-payments, deductibles and premiums, it is equally important that your primary care doctor and any specialists you visit are part of the plan's network. Not all plans cover every doctor, hospital or comprehensive cancer center near you, so review the plan's network list carefully. You also can call your doctors and hospitals to ask if they are in the plan's network. If your spouse or children are on your plan, you will need to consider their physicians as well.
Prepare for the unexpected: No one expects to receive a serious diagnosis like blood cancer, but it helps to be prepared. The cost of cancer care is rising at an alarming rate and these costs include more than drugs and doctor visits. From diagnostic tests to hospitalizations to special home health equipment, there are many hidden costs to having a serious illness. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Russell Research on behalf of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society found that 84 percent of adults are not sure how they would cover all medical costs if they were diagnosed with cancer. That's why it's important to ensure that you have the coverage you'll need at an affordable cost.
Pay close attention to the numbers: As you evaluate your coverage options - whether through an employer, Medicare, spouse or your parents - it's important to estimate your health care costs for the following year carefully. Understand what your deductible and co-pays will be and take stock of where coinsurance will be required; review your health bills from the previous year to guide your choice, but make sure you are covered for unexpected health issues as well.
If you purchase health insurance from the federal or state marketplace, the plans you are offered will depend on your location and income. It is very important to make sure your personal information is accurate and up-to-date on the federal website, HealthCare.gov, or on your state's website. Depending on your income, you could qualify to save on your insurance through advance premium tax credits. In fact, 8 out of 10 people who purchase insurance through the marketplace are eligible for lower premiums. Open enrollment in the marketplace will run this year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
If you or a family member had or has cancer, or are at risk for cancer, there is a checklist available at www.cancerinsurancechecklist.org that can help you choose the right plan when shopping on the health insurance marketplace. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society also provides free information and resources about health insurance coverage for people living with cancer at www.lls.org.
(BPT) - It's happened to almost everyone: you leave a job and have a retirement account that you are no longer actively contributing to. It sits there for months — maybe years — because you're not sure exactly where to move it or what the process is like to roll it over. You know that money could probably be better invested, but moving accounts is intimidating, so it sits.
"It's common for people to be nervous about transferring retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s," says Nick Holeman, a financial planning expert at Betterment.com. "Moving accounts shouldn't be something you fear or put off because you think it's too complicated."
Holeman says three main causes for concern are potential taxes, excessive fees and process complexity. However, these concerns are often based on misconceptions, and he wants to set the record straight to empower investors to take control of rogue retirement accounts.
Many people worry about potential tax concerns when moving retirement accounts. They've heard about the high penalties for early withdrawal and figure the best way to avoid them is to let the account be.
"A rollover is not equivalent to a withdrawal," says Holeman. "When you transfer retirement accounts through the appropriate processes, you're still keeping it in the same categorization. It just now lives in a different place."
A rollover can also help facilitate better control of your money. For example, if you roll over an old 401(k) into an IRA account, you are no longer limited to the investment options selected by your employer. This freedom of choice can help you make more customized investment decisions based on your personal goals. Of course, it's important to remember that investing in securities always involves risk and there is the potential to lose money.
A rollover means closing an old account and opening a new account. This process can incur fees that will be unique to each provider. Many people worry about the potential cost, which causes them to leave accounts untouched.
"Research account closing fees but be sure to keep in mind the big picture," Holeman says. "It's like ripping off a bandage. For example, a one-time $20 closing fee is better than a $100 annual fee that could be reduced when you move your account."
Holeman's advice: always know what fees you're paying. Before selecting a new financial organization for your retirement savings, research fees and consider selecting a new account with no trading costs, commission fees, or rebalancing fees. For example, Betterment’s Digital plan charges just 0.25 percent per year and that covers goal-based financial advice, tax-efficient investing, automatic rebalancing, and other smart features that help you keep more of your money.
"People tend to treat rolling over a retirement account like going to the dentist," Holeman says. "It's important but usually not urgent, so people tend to put it off."
What's more, people are intimidated by all the paperwork, lengthy forms and seemingly complex steps, so they delay rollovers. Holeman says moving accounts is typically easier than most people think, and in fact, after the process is complete, many people regret not doing it sooner.
"Often, moving retirement accounts can be done completely online thanks to advanced technology," says Holeman. "Betterment offers a '60 second rollover' for certain accounts from supported companies, and there's someone available to help should you have any questions. Moving accounts is typically easier than people imagine."
You should carefully consider whether a rollover is right for your own personal situation, including the specific fees and services associated with your 401(k). Visit betterment.com/rollover to learn more about factors you should consider when deciding whether a rollover might be right for you.
Betterment LLC distributed this article through Brandpoint.
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