Filing Income Taxes Can Be Stressful

Tax Preparation ServicesIt’s often said that the winter holidays are the most stressful time of year, but I bet anyone who has to file an income tax return could easily argue against that contention. With mounting anxiety, Americans often procrastinate for weeks or months before rushing around to collect all the necessary paperwork they need to file. Finally they sit down to face the task – often unaware of which way their return will fall. Will they owe this year or get a tax refund?

 

The economic demands of our day make this season of stress even more challenging for many. With income barely meeting their needs and unexpected expenses straining an already tight budget, many people dread the thought of an additional tax bill. On the flip side is the relief felt when they find that they’ll be getting a refund check in the mail.

 

Knowing that the anxiety-inducing job of filing a tax return is inevitable simply means that postponing the task just adds to the stress. So no matter what you may expect, whether good or bad, the first step in easing the stress is to get down to business. Then, once you know the outcome, you’ll have time to decide how to ease the burden of a tax bill or the best use for a tax refund.

 

You owe the Taxman!

Taking the worst-case scenario first, finding that you owe the IRS. First off, don’t panic even if the amount is beyond your ability to pay within the 10 days allotted after the IRS has made the assessment of what you owe. You need to be proactive in finding a solution while protecting your assets. No one will come to arrest you, but you will begin to get threatening notices before you’ll be contacted by a revenue officer. Quick action will help prevent the harassment and additional penalties and interest.

 

The first question to ask is whether you actually owe the money. A simple mathematical error can mean the difference between a refund and a tax bill. Thoroughly review the forms you filed for discrepancies. Better yet, pay a professional tax preparer to go over your returns again. If you discover that you definitely owe the IRS, you have multiple options to repay. Some will reduce the net amount owed; others will increase your overall payout.

 

An installment plan is the option used by taxpayers who owe less than $25,000. Fill out IRS Form 9465, a straight forward, form used to request a monthly payment plan. Provide the total amount you owe, how much you are able to apply to the tax bill right now and the amount you can pay each month. The IRS then can adjust the agreement or offer other arrangements.

 

Other options for taxpayers who owe money include account receivable and bank levies, wage garnishment, penalty abatement and what’s called an ‘offer in compromise’ which lowers the amount owed. However you decide to address your obligation to the IRS, the sooner you pay it off, the less you’ll pay in interest and penalties.

 

Whoopee! A Refund!

While celebrating may be overkill, taxpayers who are getting a tax refund can breathe a sigh of relief for dodging a tax bill. They now have an opportunity to make wise use of a tax windfall.

 

  • Invest/Save: One of the most fiscally responsible uses would be to deposit it into a 401k or other investment fund that earns interest.
  • Pay off Debt: While increasing your investment accounts has obvious benefits, the decision to pay down debt is a stress reliever for anyone who carries a balance. Lower debt has the potential to move your credit score in a positive direction making future borrowing easier.

 

Experiencing less stress during tax season comes when you pursue excellent financial management all year long. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by consistently burning the midnight oil and sacrificing entire weekends to work. Focus on balancing work and your private life. Set financial goals and celebrate milestones.

 

New Year for New Investors

invesmentWhether you’re looking to grow your income to finance your hobbies, expand your business, or contribute to a nest egg, making your investments work for you is surprisingly simple.  Jumping into the investment market as a teen or a retiree makes no difference, there are both quick and slow ways to build up your investments.  Pick an investment type that works for you.

 

Types of Investments

 

Each type of investment carries its own set of risks (the probability of liability or loss) and potential gains (quick turn profit or growth over time).  Generally, the more risk involved, the higher potential there is for larger gains or loss.  Buying stocks and shares, for example, offer short-term gains but are a quick way to turn a profit.  Listed below are a few types of investments that people of all ages typically deal with:

 

Stocks and Shares:  With stocks and shares, the investor buys a percentage of ownership of a public business, therefore making them a part-owner of the business.  Stocks can be highly profitable—the more successful a company or a stock is, the more money you stand to make.  Stocks are high-risk, though, because the market is unpredictable, and the shareholder risks losing some of all of their investments.

 

Bonds:  Bonds yield little risk, and therefore do not have a high potential for returns.  Bonds are like IOUs that you lend out to companies, councils or the government.  Interest is paid back to the lender on the amount loaned.

 

Property: Buying, restoring, and renting or selling real estate can potentially net large sums.  Like stocks, however, the market is unpredictable.  It would be best to look at trends in your local area if you’re looking to invest in property.

 

Certificates of Deposit (CD):  CDs are fixed-period investments with banks or savings and loan companies.  Like bonds, CDs rely on interest and carry a low risk.

 

Commodities:  Commodities include gold, silver, jewelry and precious metals.  Like stocks, commodities are high risk because their value waxes and wanes in the unpredictable open market.

 

Mutual Funds:  Mutual funds are a collection of assorted investments that may include stocks, bonds, properties and cash-equivalents, the purpose of which is to create a balanced portfolio.  Mutual funds contain both low-risk and high-risk investments, so sometimes investors consult outside agents to strategize their portfolio to try and achieve the highest potential for profit.

 

This is only a partial list of investment types.  Other types include but are not limited to: futures, cars, artwork, stamps, hedge funds and foreign exchange currencies.

 

Planning Appropriately Based on Your Age

 

If you’re a middle aged business owner that is looking to stretch out your earnings for a retirement plan, but do not have any experience with investing, where do you start?  Your investment trends should change over time.  The younger investor can afford high risk investments, while the older investor should play it safe and be conservative with their options to maximize their savings.

 

The Young Upstart 

Young investors have the opportunity to learn the market from the ground up, so having a large portfolio is crucial to earning big.  Mutual funds provide a hassle free approach to investments with a high-yield potential.  They get you familiar with multiple investments.  Young investors should carry a higher percentage of stocks than bonds in their portfolios.  A good stocks/bonds percentage should look like 70/30 or 80/20.

 

Mid-Life Planning

Middle-aged portfolio builders should begin to stay away from riskier investments.  Back off the stocks and mutual funds, and switch to safer, more predictable assets like CDs and bonds.  A middle aged portfolio should contain a stocks/bonds percentage close to a 50/50 split with a higher percentage of stocks at about 55 percent, and gradually reduce stocks down to 20 percent near retirement.

 

Finely Aged Entrepreneurs

If you are late in the game, don’t worry, there’s a plan for you.  To reduce stress, older investors can always hire a financial advisor that can help you work toward your goals and base a plan on your interests.  Beware of investment fraud.  Older people are often a common target for financial crime and scam artists.  Do not fall for high-pressure sales tactics, intimidation, limited offers, seminars, or “elderly specialists” with bogus certificates and accommodations.  As a rule, it’s best to stick with low-risk investments like bonds, CDs, smart real-estate, gold, fixed income cash investments and long-term care insurance.  A starting portfolio for older investors should be around 35 percent or lower in stocks and 65 percent or higher in bonds. Older investors should look into IRAs, which provide instant tax benefits with annual contributions.

 

No matter your age, it is important to find an investment plan that works for you—there’s money to be made.