A Financial Education Event
     

Tax Free Holidays

Consumers across the country are searching for ways to cut their spending and still buy what they need, especially when shopping for back-to-school essentials for kids. Many states offer tax free holidays during the back to school shopping season to help families purchase back to school necessities.

The tax free holidays are just around the corner and if your state offers this, it’s important to take full advantage of this holiday. Here are some tips to help:

FIND OUT THE DEALS – Take advantage of savings opportunities linked by local retailers to the upcoming Tax Free Holiday weekends. Don’t worry, there will be lots of ads in your local paper. Some stores like Sears even offer further discounts like $10 off a $50 apparel purchase just for showing your PTA or PTO card or student id. Be sure you go shopping prepared with these forms of identification to get your discounts.

FIND OUT LIMITATIONS – Each state has its limitations, so ask the cashier at your retailer what the rules are for your state. For example, some states will only allow up to $100 on any single item of clothing and only up to $750 on a computer. So know the rules by googling your state, “tax free holiday” and “2009.”

FIND LAYAWAY – Some stores such as K-mart have reinstituted layaway in direct response to the recession. This option varies from family to family but our family tries to minimize credit card debt and layaway is another option that helps avoid consumer debt.

Upcoming Tax Free Holiday Dates

STATE

Vermont 8/22
Georgia 7/30 to 8/2
Mississippi 7/31 to 8/1
D C 8/1 to 8/9
Alabama 8/7 to 8/9
Iowa 8/7 to 8/8
Louisiana 8/7 to 8/8
Missouri 8/7 to 8/9
New Mexico 8/7 to 8/9
North Carolina 8/7 to 8/9
Oklahoma 8/7 to 8/9
South Carolina 8/7 to 8/9
Tennessee 8/7 to 8/9
Virginia 8/7 to 8/9

Happy Savings!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

http://www.elliekay.com/

Tax Time Tips from Ellie

Wait for Your Refund – If you’re like everyone else in this economy, you need every penny of that tax return. So even though a tax preparer offers to advance you your refund, just wait. Fees can range from $60 to $100 on an average refund of $3000. In fact Americans spent $890 million in fees for money they would have received anyway in 2007.
Don’t Cash That Check – Some consumers are trying to get a jump on their spending while they are waiting for the IRS check to come in by cashing the checks that come in with your credit card statements. These “checks” have high fees and interest associated with them and the interest starts accumulating immediately.
Rainy Day Strategies – I’ve recommended that single income families have 8 months of living expenses in an emergency fund and dual income families put back 6 months worth. But most families do not have anywhere near that amount, so get a jump start on your savings by depositing your check into an emergency fund.
Beware ID Theft when Filing Taxes – Last minute filers who go to a temporary tax preparer are particularly susceptible to identity theft as the personal information on tax forms are exactly what predators are trying to find. Never go to a temporary tax preparer who may lure you with the promise of quick & cheap tax preparations. Instead, look to Turbo Tax, another software program, or a permanent CPA or tax prep service.
Don’t Believe the IRS – Another tactic for ID theft during tax time is from scammers posing as IRS or Social Security representatives who try to trick you into revealing personal info via e-mail or phone calls. To validate whether an IRS inquiry is the real deal, call 1-800-829-1040.
Homebased Business Tips – One of the few areas of our economy that is flourishing is in some of the direct sales companies. There are a lot of ways to make sure you get every deduction coming to you such as using Turbo tax or going to a professional. Homebased businesses can get tax breaks for buying their own health insurance, using a dedicated portion of their home as an office and job related moving expenses. But one of the most overlooked tax breaks is the SEP, or Simplified Employee Pension IRA because they think they are too small to qualify. So as your tax pro if contributing to a SEP IRA will help reduce your tax bill while building your retirement!

Here’s to minimal tax trauma for you and yours!

Ellie Kay
www.elliekay.com
America’s Family Financial Expert

Tis Tax Season – Smart End of the Year Money Moves

What happens when you come between a mean, barking dog and a young girl? Answer: A Trip to the Emergency Room! Yep, I grabbed the dog’s collar and he whipped it around and bit my hand. One tetnaus shot, one x-ray (revealing a dislocated thumb), a prescription of heavy duty antibiotics, one small surgery on the thumbnail and one bottle of vicodin later–and I was on my way.

That dog bite reminds me of how suddenly you can get bit by the tax guy if you don’t grab the end of this year by the collar and then run for cover! Here are a few of the end of the year tax tips that I’m recommending:

  • Give It Away! — When you’re putting away those holiday ornaments and your attic, the closets and the garage are a mess anyway, start a “donation” pile that you can give to a qualified local charity. Be sure to get a tax deductible receipt and go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/ to get a fair valuation of the good to excellent quality items you donate. Remember that you have to itemize your donations in order to get this benefit. Cash donations require that the taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. To get all the details (and as a good cure for insomnia) see IRS Publication 526.
  • Give Next Year’s This Year — Maybe you have some donations you’d like to make in January but don’t have enough donations for 2008 to itemize. Donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year count for 2008. This is true even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until next year. Also, checks count for 2008 as long as they are mailed this year. By making this extra donation early, you might have enough to itemize.
  • Pay Deductible Expenses by Credit Card — Just as a donation made by a credit card in 2008 will count toward the 2008 tax year, the same applies to business expenses charged before the year ends.
  • Bonus IRA — Invest this year’s bonus in an IRA to reduce your taxes. If you have a certain income bracket, you can invest in the Saver’s Credit. Check with your tax professional to see if you qualify, or follow the link to look at the tax brackets.
  • More 401(k) — You may already be contributing to your 401(k) in order to get the benefit of your company’s matching funding. But keep in mind that you can reduce your paycheck by paying a little more to this fund up to a specified percentage of your salary. Every time you reduce your paycheck, you increase your tax savings!
  • Mortgage UP! — I saw a really lame movie a few years ago called “Cowboy Up” starring Kiefer Sutherland. It was lame because you found yourself crying and you knew the movie was too smarmy to cry! A forgettable flick before he was an unforgettable star. Do your yourself a favor and Mortgage Up to make an extra payment in order to deduct the interest on 2008’s taxes.

Don’t let this year’s taxes take a bite out the hand that feeds it, thereby making you next April’s fool. Take the time to tend to taxes–after all, tis the season!

Ellie Kay

“America’s Family Financial Expert” (R)

http://www.elliekay.com/

Stimulus Check–How Long Will You Wait?

The good news: I made some money in 2007.

The bad news: I made some money in 2007.

The good news: I gotta pay.

The bad news: I gotta pay. Lots.

A stimulus check? I hope you enjoy yours! But wait a minute, YOU might be waiting a while, too.

On May 2 the IRS expects to make 34 million payments within the first three weeks. Taxpayers who choose direct deposit will get theirs between May 2 and May 16 if everything is in order and they were turned in by April 15th. If you filed via snail mail, then your checks will be mailed starting May 15 and finished by July 11

Direct Deposit Payments:
If the last two digits of your SS# is: It should be sent to bank by:
00 – 20 May 2
21 – 75 May 9
76 – 99 May 16

Paper Check
If the last two digits of your SS # is: Your check should be in the mail by:
00 – 09 May 16
10 – 18 May 23
19 – 25 May 30
26 – 38 June 6
39 – 51 June 13
52 – 63 June 20
64 – 75 June 27
76 – 87 July 4
88 – 99 July 11

My advice for this check?

  • Pay Down Debt
  • Build Up Savings
  • Budget a “splurge” factor while still doing all the above!
  • Spend Wisely (see the tips in this blog for ideas)

Hope at least YOU have a good tax day!

Ellie Kay
http://www.elliekay.com/
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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