Wow! Has your first work day of 2014 been as crazy as mine? If this is what the new year holds, I'm going to have to get a bigger coffee pot! And hire a personal Zen yoga trainer.
Now that I've finally had a chance to catch my breath, I want to remind everyone -- as if y'all need it -- that the 2013 tax year is done. All that's left, for the most part, is the filing of our annual tax returns.
But 2014 also brings us the chance to make sure that the filing process is as painless and effective as possible. And we also need to shift our tax focus a bit to what we can do about our now accumulating 2014 taxes.
For this first month of the New Year, here are some tax moves you can make in both those areas and beyond.
Form flood on the way: First, be on the lookout for the various tax statements that are going to be showing up in your snail mail and email boxes. I've already received a couple.
When you get these W-2, 1099 or assorted other tax statements, check them immediately. If you find a mistake, let the issuer know that your numbers are different ASAP. That way you'll have plenty of time to get the mistake corrected so that the info you enter on your 1040 jibes with the third-party data the Internal Revenue Service receives.
Planning ahead: Think about your retirement. That's right, a new work year just began and I'm already contemplating when the 9-to-5 will end. So should you. If your workplace offers a 401(k) plan, take advantage of it. If you're not participating, enroll. If your are contributing, bump up the amount that comes out of each paycheck.
And remember that you also can open and/or contribute to an IRA, traditional or Roth, too.
The sooner you stark socking away cash for your post-work years, the longer the power of compounding has to work for you.
Payroll withholding tweaks: While you're making adjustments to your retirement account, also look into revising your payroll withholding. This is a must if you're getting a big refund this tax season or, unfortunately, expect to pay a large tax bill. You want your withholding amount to be as close as your eventual tax bill as possible.
Making the necessary changes -- the IRS has an online payroll withholding calculator that help you come up with the proper amount -- is a wise move for both your taxes and your bottom line. If you need more taken out, at least by doing so sooner, the per-paycheck amounts should be smaller because they're spread over more weeks of pay.
Cool your filing jets: Also remember that thanks to the government shutdown, the IRS has pushed start of the 2014 filing season to Jan. 31. If you're e-filing, you can fill out your return online and your e-file provider can hold it until the tax agency is ready to accept it. But if you're sending in paper forms, don't stamp 'em until the last day of the month.
The Jan. 31 date also is when the Free File program will open its electronic doors. So your patience could mean you'll be able to file at no cost.
These are just a few of the tax issues you might want to consider once you've completely recovered from your New Year's celebration headache.
You'll find more potential tax tasks in the January Tax Moves listing over in the ol' blog's right column. Just scroll down a bit and look for the tax day deadline countdown clock in the bright red box. The monthly tax moves start just below it.
As the 2014 calendar pages change, you'll find tips that apply to your upcoming 2013 return, as well as advice on how to get a head start on reducing your 2014 tax bill.
Whether you're focusing on tax filing or tax planning, I hope some of these tax moves and tips help. Here's to a very happy and tax-saving 2014!