Does it sometimes seem like tax season never ends? That's because when you're a savvy taxpayer, it doesn't!
The key to paying the fewest possible taxes is planning. You need to stay on top of your tax and financial situations so you can make tax-cutting moves throughout the year.
And the Weekly Tax Tip is here to help you keep more of your money out of Uncle Sam's hands.
Each Wednesday from now, April 27, until Dec. 27, you'll find a new tax tip posted atop the ol' blog's right column.
Some tips will help those of you who postponed your 2010 filing until October. Others will suggest strategies to cut your impending 2011 tax bill. And sometimes the tips will offer general tax advice and information.
If you miss a weekly tip or simply want a refresher, bookmark this page and come back at your leisure to check out this running list of tips.
- Bunch your tax deductions -- Did you save skads of receipts in the hope of writing off all those expenses but discovered at filing time they didn't amount to as much as you had hoped? To avoid such wasted tax record keeping in the future, set up a bunching strategy now. This is a way to help ensure you meet the tax deduction thresholds that are required of some itemized expenses, such as medical costs (they've got to be more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, or AGI) and miscellaneous expenses (these costs must exceed 2 percent of your AGI). By looking at what you can deduct and how short those expenses are, you can make plans to spend enough (for example, on a job search) to get over the percentage deduction hurdles in one tax year. Of course, consolidating these expenses in one tax year will likely mean that you'll be short of the necessary itemized expenses the next filing season. That's OK. Claim the standard deduction that year and bunch your expenses the following tax year. The IRS has no problem with you alternating between standard and itemized deductions. You are, after all, allowed to use the deduction method that will save you the most tax money. (April 27, 2011)
- The tax joys of parenthood -- Mother's Day is this Sunday (May 8 in case it slipped your mind!), but Uncle Sam has some nice tax gifts for mom year-round. There is, of course, an added tax exemption for each child. That amounts to an added dollar amount you can subtract from adjusted gross income to get to a smaller taxable income amount; for 2011, it's $3,700 per person. There's also the $1,000 per child tax credit, which might even produce a refund in some family situations, as well as other child-related credits such as the one for care while you work (including summer day camp costs) and to help pay some costs if you added to your family via adoption. And don't forget about young Janie's or Jimmy's schooling. Those costs are high, but some education tax credits and an above-the-line deduction for tuition and fees can help make the price of a diploma a bit more affordable. (May 4, 2011)
- What if your tax refund is wrong? -- You were counting on your federal tax refund, but when the check arrived, either in your snail mail box or directly deposited into a bank account, it was for less -- a lot less! -- than you expected. What's up with that!? The usual reason is that your refund was offset by another federal or state debt you owe, such as a student loan or child support. These jurisdictions get first dibs on your refund money. Sometimes, though, folks get tax refund checks that are larger than they expected. (It happened to me once.) So what do you do in either case? If the IRS says your refund is different from what you figured, it usually sends you a notice. Read it and call the number on it if you still have questions. In most cases, the IRS calculations are correct; it's we taxpayers who made a mistake (or two). The bottom line, don't ignore a tax refund amount that's different from you expected. You might not like the explanation you get for the monetary change, but at least you'll understand why your check came up ahead or short. (May 11, 2011)
- Tax record-keeping tips -- You're finally through with your taxes. Now what to do with all the associated paperwork? Set up a tax record-keeping system! It doesn't have to be elaborate; something as simple as an accordion folder might work just fine for you. But you need some sort of record-keeping set-up so that you'll have answers close at hand if the IRS ever has questions about your filing. Plus, once you have a system in place for your old records, you can use it to keep track of your current year tax documents. That will make doing your taxes each filing season that much easier. (May 18, 2011)
- Travel help from Uncle Sam -- Summer is almost here and that means folks are thinking about taking a trip or two. In some cases, the tax code might be able to help you save on some travel costs. Many business travel expenses are tax deductible. By tacking on a couple of personal days at the end or beginning of your business trip, you'll give yourself a much needed break and still be able to write off your eligible work-related expenses. Normal business travel tax deductions include transportation and lodging costs, as well as some meals. The key, as with all things tax, is good documentation. Be sure you can substantiate your legitimate business travel expenses and show any IRS auditor that you properly kept business and personal expenses separate. (May 25, 2011)
- Get disaster relief from the IRS -- Tornadoes have done historic damage in 2011. Floods and wildfires have taken their toll, too. And today is the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. The first thing we all need to do is prepare, both physically and financially, for disaster. But if worse comes to worst and we are hit by a catastrophic act of nature, the tax code can help. Losses from major disasters can be claimed on tax returns for the year in which they occurred, or they can be claimed against the previous tax year. This loss deduction time shift could allow you to get tax refund money sooner. And having the cash in hand more quickly means you can start making much-needed repairs. So if you're ever a major storm victim, run the numbers to determine which tax filing method works better for you. (June 1, 2011)
- Estimated tax time again! -- Our pay-as-you-earn tax system, most evident in the payroll tax withholding from our workplace checks, is designed to provide Uncle Sam operating funds throughout the year. However, when you have income that isn't subject to withholding, it's your responsibility to get the appropriate tax amount to the IRS via estimated tax payments. The second such tax payment each year is due on June 15, or the next business day if the 15th falls on a weekend or federal holiday. You can mail your 1040-ES voucher and check or money order. The IRS considers a postmark of 6/15 as timely filing. Or you can pay your estimated taxes via credit or debit card, electronic funds withdrawal or by using the IRS' Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Whatever payment method you choose, just make sure you meet the deadline. If you don't, you could face added penalty and interest charges. (June 8, 2011)
- Help from the IRS in caring for older parents -- As Father's Day nears, are you thinking about what you can do to help your aging dad? It's an issue that many of us will one day face. There is some help from the tax code in taking care of an elderly parent. Some things you'll need to consider are your parent's income, including Social Security; how much support you provide for living expenses, including your parent's residential costs; and how much medical costs you pay for your parent. When you cover more than half of dad's or mom's living expenses, you might be able to claim him or her as a dependent relative, giving you an extra exemption at tax-filing time. If both your parents are still around, you can determine your support of each separately. That could be helpful tax-wise if you, for example, paid major medical bills for your dad but not your mom. It takes some careful planning and calculations, especially when you and siblings are sharing older parent care costs, it could be worth it at tax time. (June 15, 2011)
- When married filing separately is wise -- Wedded bliss usually means sharing everything, including taxes. But sometimes that's not wise. True, opting to fill out your Form 1040 as married filing jointly is the preferred filing status for wedded couples. That's because in most cases, it produces the best tax results for husbands and wives. But for some couples, it makes more tax sense to send the IRS two tax returns. In these cases, the husband and wife select the filing status of married filing separately. Things like excessive medical expenses for one spouse, extended family issues, business ownership complexities and just plain old suspicions about some tax claims a partner wants to make are all equally good reasons to file separate returns. So couples, when it comes time to file your next return, take a good look at your tax circumstances -- and your marriage! -- and run the numbers both ways. That way you'll be sure that you complete your taxes using the filing status that best fits your tax and marital situations. (June 22, 2011)
- Claiming a tax credit for kids' camp costs -- You love your kids. But you also love being able to go to work without worrying about them. So what do parents do in the summer when school's out? If they send their kids to day camp, Uncle Sam might help foot part of the bill. You can use those costs to claim the Child and Dependent Care credit. Since it's a credit, you get a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax liablity. But you do have to follow some rules; it is the IRS, after all. Only day camps, not overnight programs qualify. Also, when you calculate your credit, you can count only up to $3,000 in year-round child care expenses for one qualified dependent or up to $6,000 for two or more. And then you can only claim a percentage of the total costs. Your exact credit will be 20 percent to 35 percent of your child care expenses, depending on your income. But some tax relief is better than none. So if you send your kids to day camp this summer, hang onto the receipts. They could pay off next filing season. (June 29, 2011)
- Tax issues facing young workers -- Did your kid get a job this summer? Make sure you and your youngster know the tax implications. The IRS typically is looking to collect on earnings regardless of the worker's age. The filing trigger for a young employee is the amount of income. For 2011, that's $5,800 or more for wages. A youngster who doesn't expect to make the earnings limit can tell an employer not to withhold taxes; just fill out line 7 of the W-4. But if taxes are taken out and the child ends up not making enough to file, the youth should file anyway to get the money back. And what about entrepreneurial youngsters? If a kid has his or her own business, the young worker needs to be aware of the $400 net self-employment filing trigger. (July 6, 2011)
- Tracking down your tax refund -- It's July. You filed your taxes on time. So just where the heck is your tax refund? Some tax credits -- adoption, first-time homebuyer -- are wreaking havoc on refunds this year. But even some regular return refunds could be in IRS processing purgatory. You have three ways to find out when you might expect your refund. Call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1954. Use the agency's online tracking tool Where's My Refund?. Check in with the agency's free smartphone app IRS2Go. Whichever method you use, you'll need your Social Security number, the filing status you claimed on your refund and the amount of money you're expecting. (July 13, 2011)
- Tax considerations of the unemployed -- You've been laid off and the news just gets worse. You have to think about taxes. Yes, it's true. Taxes don't stop even when your paychecks do. Unemployment compensation is taxable. All of it. That exclusion amount from a couple of years ago is gone. But since your income has dropped, you also might qualify for the earned income tax credit. You also need to think carefully about tapping retirement accounts to make ends meet. There generally are tax costs there. But job-hunting expenses might be deductible. And if you decide to start your own business, there are a variety of small business tax breaks you can claim. (July 20, 2011)
- It's time to pick a tax pro -- Summer's not just for vacations. It's also the perfect season to pick a tax professional. The annual filing season crush is over and most tax pros have more time to spend with existing and potential clients. The first step is to determine what type of return preparer you need. You've got lots of tax pro options, from franchise firms to mom-and-pop preparers to CPAs to enrolled agents to attorneys. Once you decide which tax pro is right for you, then you have to select the specific person. and thoroughly check out that preparer. Making the best choice will take some time. So get to it now. And once you've hired the perfect tax pro, you can enjoy the rest of your summer as well as next year's filing season. (July 27, 2011)
- Deduct your sales taxes -- In all but five states, sales taxes are charged on most products. Local levies also are often tacked on to these purchases. But when it's time to file your federal tax return, your state and local sales taxes could provide a deduction. If you pay both state income taxes and sales taxes, you have to choose which amount will give you a smaller IRS bill. And unless Congress acts, the sales tax deduction is only good through 2011. But you still can claim it on your 2010 return if you got an extension to file. And it's definitely worth considering as your make your 2011 tax planning moves. (Aug. 3, 2011)
- Taking tax advantage of capital losses -- Did you sell some assets at exactly the wrong time wrong time, taking a big loss? Or perhaps you planned the sale? Either way, you can use it to your tax advantage. When you sell an asset for less than you paid for it, you can use the loss to offset capital gains from more successful ventures. If you don't have any gains, you can still use the loss to reduce your other ordinary income by as much as $3,000 a year. Of course, we're talking taxes so it's not as easy as 1 minus 3 equally a loss of 2. You have to know your basis to count against your profit. But in most cases, it's also not rocket science math. And the bit of extra computations is worth it when it lowers your tax liability. (Aug. 10, 2011)
- Home energy improvement tax credits still available -- Hot enough for you? How about your air conditioning unit? Is it holding up OK in the heat? If not, then consider getting a new one. It could make you more comfortable during these closing days of summer, as well as at tax filing time next year. Several home energy improvements, including certain HVAC units, still qualify for residential energy upgrade tax credits in 2011. The good news is that the tax savings could be up to $500 on your 2011 tax bill. Since the tax benefit is a credit, that means it counts dollar-for-dollar against any tax you owe and could possibly wipe out your tax liability. The bad news, though, is that the total 2011 home energy credit amount is just a third of what the tax break offered in prior years. Still, any tax credit is better than none. And if you're really committed to saving energy, you could get a better tax credit for certain geothermal, wind, fuel cell and solar home improvements. Energy Star breaks down the all the various home energy tax credits, for 2011 and beyond. (Aug. 17, 2011)
- Tax breaks can help to ease educational costs -- Parents across the country are celebrating. Their kids are finally back in class. Of course, the party ends as soon as the school bills arrive. But your dear old Uncle Sam wants to help with the ever-increasing cost of getting an education. And he offers many tax-favored ways to pay for school costs, both at the college and elementary and secondary school levels. They include 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, the tuition and fees and student loan interest above-the-line deductions, the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning education tax credits and even a break on savings bond interest earnings. As with all things tax, there are earnings limits, dual tax break restrictions and requirements that educational institutions and students must meet. But it's worth the tax homework to save a bit on the high price of wising up your youngsters. (Aug. 24, 2011)
- Writing off foreign taxes -- If your portfolio includes some foreign investments, chances are that you end up paying taxes to another country each year. But the Internal Revenue Service has some good news for you: You can use foreign taxes to help reduce your U.S. tax bill. When your diversified investments result in you paying foreign taxes, you'll find the amount reported in box 6 of the 1099-DIV you (and the IRS) receive. You have two options when you file your U.S. taxes. You can claim the foreign tax amount as an itemized deduction in the other taxes section of Schedule A. Or you can claim the taxes paid to another country as a credit directly on your Form 1040. Credits provide a better tax break than deductions, since they reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar. But just in case you want to go the deduction route, the IRS gives you make the choice. (Aug. 31, 2011)
- Popular tax breaks that cost Uncle Sam a lot -- The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is starting its work on how to trim up to $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit. The focus has been on spending cuts, but some taxes must be in play, too. Some of the most costly tax breaks also are very popular, with both rank-and-file taxpayers and industry groups (and their lobbyists). And a lot of them have been on the tax books for quite a while. Which, if any, of these tax breaks might be at least tweaked? Your guess is as good as mine. But what is for sure is that it's going to be an interesting, and entertaining, few months watching Representatives and Senators try to figure out a deficit reduction plan. (Sept. 7, 2011)
- Tax considerations of the self-employed -- If working for yourself is your dream, don't let tax issues turn it into a nightmare. One of your key administrative jobs is tackling your taxes. That includes making estimated tax payments that cover income taxes on your earnings, as well as associated self-employment taxes. Self-employment taxes, also referred to as SE taxes because that's the name of the tax form, Schedule SE, on which they are reported when we file our annual returns, are the amounts that go toward Social Security and Medicare. When you work for someone else, these taxes are part of your payroll tax withholding. You pay half of these FICA tax amounts and your boss matches that amount. But when you're self-employed, you're both the worker and the head honcho so you have to come up with the full amount. You do, however, get to deduct the employer portion of SE tax payment when you file your tax return. It's part of the adjustments to income, also called above-the-line deductions, section at the end of the first page of the 1040. But before you can deduct them, you have to pay them, so be sure to figure your SE amount when you do your estimated tax calculations. (Sept. 14, 2011)
- Tax relief for innocent spouses -- Most married taxpayers do a lot of things together, including filing taxes. That's usually a good idea, since more tax breaks are available to the couple filing a single 1040. But if one spouse takes some tax shortcuts, thanks to the legal provision known as joint and several liability, the other spouse ends up in just as much tax trouble. That's why in some situations it pays to file a separate tax return. Sometimes, however, a spouse can't or doesn't take such tax preemptive measures. In these cases, there's the possibility of getting some relief from the IRS via its injured and innocent spouse programs. And this summer, the IRS decided to extend the time frame for requesting certain types of spousal tax relief. Also, in cases involving spousal abuse, the IRS takes steps to resolve the tax issue without exacerbating the situation. Here's hoping your marriage and taxes are forever happy. You can help keep them that way by being aware of what your spouse is claiming on your joint tax return. If you have any concerns, don't sign it. But when that's not possible, check out your spousal tax relief options. (Sept. 21, 2011)
- FSAs can help cover medical costs -- Health insurance is a great workplace benefit, but even the best of plans don't cover every medical cost. For those overruns, a flexible spending account can come in handy. You might have heard them also called flexible savings accounts or FSAs. Whatever the name, they allow you to stash pretax dollars to pay for medical expenses that aren't covered by your employer-provided medical insurance. There are, however, some downsides. If you don't use all the money in your FSA, you'll lose it. And recent changes to the accounts, most notably restrictions on purchases of over-the-counter medications, also have made the plans less appealing. Still, for many folks, FSAs work out well. So if your company offers this benefit, check it out. It could save you some tax and health care dollars. (Sept. 28, 2011)
- Track down tax-filing statements -- If you postponed your filing earlier this year, it's time to find all those tax documents you got months ago. You need them to file your return by the impending Oct. 17 deadline. Depending on your personal tax situation, the number of tax documents tax documents could be quite large. You've got a W-2 for each salaried position you hold. If you work for yourself or took side jobs, you'll probably get some 1099-MISC forms. Got investment income? Then you'll need to find your 1099-INT, 1099-DIV and 1099-B statements. There's even a tax document if you were out of work; a 1099-G reports your taxable unemployment benefits. It is a lot of paperwork, so make sure you haven't overlooked anything. And remember to check your email. Many employers and money managers and lenders operate electronically nowadays. Your tax statement could still be in your in-box. (Oct. 5, 2011)
- Beware of year-round tax scams -- It's not just the Internal Revenue Service that wants your tax money. Con artists never take time off. Instead they use tax hooks 365 days to steal your cash and identity. The long list of usual tax scams includes perennials such as frivolous tax arguments that individuals aren't legally obligated to file returns and offshore tax accounts. But far and away the biggest tax scam is phishing by identity thieves. This fall, a new phishing email citing a real IRS notice is making the rounds. But like its predecessors, don't fall for it. The IRS doesn't use email to contact taxpayers about their tax accounts. (Oct. 12, 2011)
- The tax benefits (for now) of homeownership -- Owning a home is a big responsibility. It also offers a lot of tax breaks, for now. There's a chance that Congressional efforts to reduce the deficit could eliminate some residential tax benefits. But as long as we've got 'em, make sure to claim 'em. They include the ever popular mortgage interest itemized tax deduction; points paid to get a lower loan rate; property taxes to your county tax collector; and lots of tax-free profit when you sell your primary residence. Even some home improvements could be tax deductions or at least help reduce any potentially taxable profit when you do sell. So keep track of your home's costs and be sure to claim all possible tax benefits on your tax return. (Oct. 20, 2011)
- 2012 income tax brackets -- Every fall, the Internal Revenue Service looks at official inflation data and then calculates how increases, if any, in the cost of living will apply to a wide variety of tax provisions that affect almost every taxpayer. The changes include standard deduction and personal exemption amounts, how much money we can sock away in retirement accounts, the value of popular tax credits and, of course, how much of our income will fall into what income tax brackets. For tax year 2012, the income brackets got a little wider. This is good news, since our progressive tax system means more of your earnings will be taxed at lower rates. The first portion of your earnings, regardless of your filing status, is taxed at 10 percent. The next amount at 15 percent and so on until you get to the tax bracket into which your last taxable dollar falls. That's your marginal tax rate, but the overall effective tax rate for most of us is usually much lower. The 2012 tax bracket data won't help when you file your 2011 return next year (you'll need the 2011 tax brackets for that job), but the 2012 info is good to have so you can make wise tax planning moves next year. (Oct. 26, 2011)
- Take advantage of education tax credits -- The cost of learning keeps growing, but you can get some help from your good old Uncle Sam. The tax code offers a couple of tax credits to cover some education costs. Remember, tax credits are better than deductions because they give you a dollar for dollar offset against your tax bill. The American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning tax credits cover different areas of education, so do your homework to ensure you pick the tax break that best fits your situation. The American Opportunity tax credit can get you $2,500 per student for costs incurred during the first four years of college. Even better, $1,000 of the credit is refundable. The Lifetime Learning credit, as its name implies, can be claimed in connection with a wider range of school expenses. This tax break of up to $2,000 per tax return can be used in connection with undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses. With a little studying of these and other tax-favored ways to pay for ever-growing educational costs, you'll earn straight A's in class and on your tax return. (Nov. 2, 2011)
- Checking on your tax refund -- Yes, back in July this feature offered tips on how to track down your tax refund. But that was for taxpayers who met the April filing deadline (or filed even sooner!). Now those of us who got extensions and waited until mid-October to file are waiting for our tax refunds. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, some of us (I'm guilty!) file late even though we're getting money back from the IRS. So now we're doing what obsessive earlier taxpayers did: waiting for our tax cash. The tracking process is the same whatever time of year. There's the phone (1-800-829-1954), the Where's My Refund? online search engine and the IRS2Go smartphone app. Here's hoping that one of these refund tracking options will help you soon have your money in hand. (Nov. 10, 2011)
- Time (again) to adjust your payroll withholding -- Yes, as with last week's tax refund tracking this week's tip is a repeat. But there's no limit on how often you can change your withholding. And as the end of the year approaches, it's the perfect time to submit a new W-4. Getting your withholding right will help ensure that you won't owe a big tax bill when you file your return. It also will end getting back a big tax refund. C'mon, you really don't want Uncle Sam instead of you having access to your hard-earned dollars for the whole year, do you? So adjust your withholding now, while there's still enough time left in the year to make a difference. (Nov. 16, 2011)
- Tax moves to make by Dec. 31 -- Before you get caught up in the holiday rush, make some time to evaluate your tax situation. There are plenty of moves you can make by Dec. 31 that could help reduce your tax bill. Selling stocks that have lost value can offset any capital gains. If you have more losses than gains, you can use up to $3,000 of your losses to reduce your ordinary income. Gifts to your favorite charity can be deducted (as long as you itemize). And if you're a homeowner, paying your property tax bill and your January mortgage in December will give you added amounts to deduct on your Schedule A. Other tax saving moves to make before the year ends are available to adoptive parents, educators and disaster victims. Be sure to check out all your year-end tax options before it's too late to take advantage of them. (Nov. 25, 2011)
- Hobby to business could be good tax move -- You've made a few bucks recently on your hobby to help out with your holiday gift buying. But if your hobby regularly puts more than just a few extra dollars in your pocket, consider turning it into a year-round, full-fledged business. Since you are required to report the income whether it comes from a hobby or business, making your avocation your vocation, even part-time, can get you the benefit of tax deductions that could effectively erase your taxable hobby-turned-business income. (Dec. 2, 2011)
- Use or lose your FSA money -- It's that time of the year. No, not to go holiday shopping, but to spend down your medical flexible savings accounts, or FSA. If your company's benefits year ends on Dec. 31 and you still have money in an FSA, you could soon lose it. That's one of the drawbacks of an FSA, although some employers provide account holders a three-month-plus grace period, until March 15, to use up the previous year's FSA balance. But it's an option, not the rule. So check with your benefits' manager and FSA administrator to make sure you don't miss the deadline. And if it's the end of the year, get spending that FSA money. (Dec. 10, 2011)
- Charitable donations can help cut your tax bill -- As Dec. 31 approaches each year, Americans receive lots of requests from nonprofits for donations. And we usually respond favorably. If you do decide to give to a charity now, or any time of the year, your generosity also might pay off at tax time, as long as you know and follow the Internal Revenue Service's rules on tax deductions for donations. A key requirement is that you get your gift to your favorite charity by Dec. 31 to be able to deduct it on this year's tax return. The gift also must go to a qualified charity; that means one that meets IRS standards. You also will have to itemize to claim the donation. And be sure to get a receipt. You'll need that documentation if the IRS has any questions about your deduction for your donation. (Dec. 14, 2011)
- Capital losses can help cut your tax bill -- If your portfolio took a beating this year, consider selling some of those losers before the year's over. By taking advantage of tax losses by Dec. 31, you could cut your tax bill when your file your return next year. Your capital losses can offset any capital gains you might have made this tax year on more successful ventures. If, however, when you followed year-end investment moves advice and readjusted your portfolio, there weren't any gains to be found, the losses still could be useful. You can use up to $3,000 in losses to reduce your ordinary income. If you have more than three grand in losses, first hire a new investment adviser. Then remember that you can carry forward the excess loss amount into future tax years. (Dec. 21, 2011)
- Pay January mortgage before year end for added interest deduction -- If you're still looking for ways to reduce your 2011 tax bill, consider making your January mortgage payment by Dec. 31 instead of early next month. Accelerating your house payment even by just a day will get you an additional tax deduction on your Schedule A for the interest paid. Of course, paying it now instead of January means you'll have to do the same thing this time next year if you want to keep your itemized deductions bumped up as much as possible. But if the extra interest deduction will help trim this year's taxes, it's probably worth getting your January mortgage payment in ASAP. (Dec. 28, 2011)
- Check out tax refund loan alternatives -- Tax filing season is here and not so long ago tax anticipation loans, or RALs, also were big January business. That's not so true any more. Fewer places offer them, thanks to efforts by consumer advocacy groups, the IRS itself (remember the debt indicator decision?) and financial regulators. But there still are some RALs out there, along with their fast tax cash cousins. I totally understand the desire and, in too many cases, the need for refund money as soon as possible. However, there are less costly RAL alternatives. (Jan. 4, 2012)
Remember, a new tax tip will be posted each Wednesday until the 2012 tax filing season. Then the Daily Tax Tip will resume.
Mark your calendar so you don't miss any tax-saving tidbit.