Briarcliff Manor resident Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC’s Today Show and host of the “Her Money” podcast premiering April 11 on iTunes, offers the following suggestions:
Procrastinate no more. The IRS might have given you three extra days to file this year – the deadline is April 18th, not the usual 15th – but that shouldn’t mean you have three extra days to procrastinate. You want to file as soon as possible for a couple of reasons: One: You’ll get your refund faster. (This year’s is averaging around $3,000, according to the IRS.) Two: You’ll lessen the likelihood of someone filing as you. Tax-related fraud increased 67 percent from 2014 to 2015 – according to LifeLock, an identity theft protection company. This year, file ASAP and next year file as soon as you possibly can.
Use last year’s return. Before you start, grab last year’s tax return and use it as a guide. It’ll remind you of which credits and deductions you might qualify for again, any carryovers from last year (via charitable contributions or capital losses) and make you question any major differences to account for this time around.
Make no assumptions. Gather this year’s tax forms (i.e. W-2s, 1099s, receipts for itemizing, etc.), not just for better organization, but to check them for errors. Employers can make mistakes; If your 1099 is incorrect, better to ask your employer to correct it before you file.
Double (maybe triple) check your math. Whether you’re filing by hand or online – or even if someone’s preparing your return for you – check the numbers. E-filing is a quicker and more accurate means of making sure both your return and refund are processed, but you could still make an input error.
Don’t forget to sign off. People get so excited to send their returns off to Uncle Sam that they forget to sign them. It happens – and it will delay processing and therefore your refund.
Report all of your income. If you’re one of the millions of Americans working in the gig economy (or shared economy) – and have multiple sources of income – then make sure you’ve reported every earned dollar. If what you report doesn’t match what the person or company paid you reported, it will trigger a "correspondence audit" or a letter from the IRS.
Write off job-hunting costs. If you were (or are) hunting in your current field (and these costs pushed miscellaneous costs past two percent of your adjusted gross income), you can deduct transportation, hotel stays and food (for overnight trips), cab fare and employment agency fees. If it's your first job, you can deduct moving costs (and you don't even have to itemize).
Go to www.jeanchatzky.com/ for more information.
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