Tax Deductions You May Not Know About

When tax returns come due every April 15th, everybody is looking to maximize their tax benefits. Getting the largest return when you file taxes is truly not about your skills, but rather how much you know about the tax system. It is all too common that many taxpayers either overlook or miss out on various credits and deductions they are unaware of. The most frequently missed deductions relate to health care expenses, insurance premiums, and interest rates on loans. This article will discuss a few types of deductions that could save you some serious cash on your next tax returns.

Disability Insurance Premiums

This insurance is quite possibly the most overlooked premium which qualifies as a tax deduction. It is important to remember that these premiums will always be tax deductible as a business expense for self-employed, taxpaying citizens. Just remember that if you deduct the premium on your tax return, any benefits which are paid on the policy will count as taxable income. Conversely, if you do not deduct your premium, then the policy benefits will not be taxable; this allows taxpayers to receive tax-free benefits should they become disabled.

Life Insurance Premiums

Your premiums for life insurance are another frequently missed deduction. Your premium is deductible since it qualifies as a business-related expense. Death benefits paid to business-related beneficiaries are usually tax-free, but there are situations in which this benefit is taxable if it is corporate-owned. For individual policy holders, the death benefit is usually tax-free as well. Most premiums are also eligible as a deduction for most non-qualified plans which include executive bonuses and deferred compensation.

Medical Expenses

If your medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, they are considered a deductible expense. The vast majority of taxpayers never accrue enough unreimbursed medical bills within a single year to qualify for the deduction. However, there are ways to boost your deduction if you have a substantial amount of pending bills. It is possible to schedule other medical expenses or procedures within the same fiscal year to breach the limit for the deduction. The total amount of expenditures which qualify for this deduction include operations not covered by your insurance and any other types of unreimbursed expenses you accumulated within the same year. These expenses may include routine checkups, chiropractic treatments, dental procedures, vision correction, and prescription drugs.

This can be a crucial deduction, but you should not declare this specific deduction if there is the possibility that your insurance company may reimburse you. If you receive an insurance check in the following year for reimbursement, you will need to claim the total amount of the reimbursement as income on your next tax return.

Student Loans

Many graduates struggle to pay off their massive loans once they enter the professional world, but this may actually qualify as a tax write-off. You can deduct up to $2,500 per year for the interest on your student loans, even if your deductions are not itemized. It is important to note that this deduction does have income limitations. Another added bonus for those who paid extra money on their student loans to reduce their principle amount can deduct the interest of voluntary payments.

Taxes for a New Vehicle

At the end of 2012, there was a revival of the deductions for state sales tax. This write-off allows taxpayers to choose between a deduction for either the state sales taxes or income taxes. If you live in a state with no income tax, this is an easy decision; however, if you live in one of the high-tax states it could save you a significant chunk of change if you made a large purchase, such as a new vehicle.

Check with a tax attorney if you have any questions about tax deductions.

Author: Written by Randy Otis of Levy Tax Help.

4 Unexpected Factors That Can Raise Insurance Premiums

If you are looking to buy insurance, it’s important to know going in whether you can expect higher rates than other people. Here are some of the factors that may increase your insurance rate.

Untreated Sleep Apnea

If you have untreated sleep apnea, your insurance rates are going to be higher. That’s because sleep apnea puts you at risk for numerous other serious health conditions, including psychological problems and cardiovascular illness. Once treated, though, sleep apnea risks decline significantly, and so may your insurance rates.

Wikipedia Commons License

“Sleep apnea treatment can be very effective,” according to Dr. Mark Dunayer of B&D Dental Excellence near Rockland, New York. “And now it’s even more convenient than ever, with oral appliance therapy available for many people, instead of the cumbersome CPAP machine we used to use.”

Your Job

You may think your work is none of their business, but the insurance company sees it differently. They will charge you higher rates if you work in an industry where you are exposed to toxic chemicals or have a high risk of injury or death.

The occupations with the highest risk of nonfatal injury, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Police officers
  • Truck drivers
  • Janitors and cleaners
  • Nursing aides and orderlies
  • Laborers

These professions alone accounted for 20% of illnesses requiring days off work. Most injuries occur when people have 1-5 years experience, so if you’ve been working at your job for a longer period, you may see a discount (unless you work in a job where chemical exposure effects increase with time).

Your Marital Status

Married people tend to live longer and be healthier. Married people are at lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and other major illnesses. This means they tend to get lower insurance rates. If you get married, you may see a drop in insurance rates, although men tend to see a larger drop, because they get a bigger health boost for being married. Research shows these benefits mostly accrue to couples that are “happily” married, though your insurance company isn’t likely to put that fine a point on it.

For some of these conditions, pets have also been shown to lower your risk, but they’re unlikely to lower your insurance rates.

Your Zip Code

Where you live also affects your life insurance rates. People who live in certain places tend to be at higher risk for serious injury or death. There may be many different factors for this, including the climate, the presence of infectious diseases where you live, environmental pollution such as air pollution or contaminated groundwater, crime rates, and car accident risks. Sometimes, insurance rates will be higher based on the general area of the country, but they may also be higher for certain neighborhoods or towns.

The Good News for You

On the plus side, all of these conditions are rated differently by different insurance companies, which means that you may be able to get a better rate by competitive shopping. Talk to several insurance companies and see how the rate varies. You may be able to find a great bargain.

 

Author Bio: Thanks to Dr. Mark Dunayer of B&D Excellence Dentistry in West Nyack, New York, for his contribution to this article.

The Best Ways to Screw Up Your Taxes

The United States tax code is not exactly known for simplicity, and many people struggle with knowing how to file their returns successfully.  The problem is that a mistake on your taxes could end up costing you money.  For example, if you underpay your tax bill and the IRS discovers your error (and there’s a good chance they will), then you could find yourself facing late fees, penalties and interest on the money you didn’t pay.  Not only that, but if you fail to take the deductions that you are owed and you overpay your taxes, the IRS isn’t exactly going to send you a nice check with a note that you forgot to claim a credit you were entitled to.

Think they aren’t out to make as much money off of you as possible? Think again.

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Tax Credits

Because there are such high stakes when it comes to income taxes, paying your taxes is something you definitely don’t want to screw up.  Of course, there are always those people who like a challenge and who just don’t mind a little bit of excitement in their lives. Just in case you like tangling with government agencies, paying late fees and fines and ending up in a maze of audit requests, here are a few top mistakes that you can make that are sure to earn ire from the IRS.

Mistakes to Avoid on Your Taxes

Okay, in all seriousness, no one wants to feel the wrath of the IRS. That being said, make sure you avoid making these mistakes in order to fly in under the radar.

  1. Skip the tax preparation software: Tax prep software like TurboTax is easy-to-use and makes paying taxes simple so you get all of your deductions and pay the appropriate amount.  TurboTax even has experts available to answer your tax questions and to help you ensure that you can get the information you need to complete your tax return successfully. Since TurboTax makes it so hard for you to fail, you should definitely skip using this program or other tax software to do your taxes.  Instead, try to figure everything out using forms, pencil and paper and your memory of what deductions you might be eligible for. That is sure to go well for you. Just kidding—e-file to make your life easier!
  2. Wait until the very last possible second to start your taxes: This way, if something is wrong or if you are missing documents and paperwork, you can have the joy of scrambling at the last minute in order to meet your deadline.  US News identifies waiting to file as one of the Top 10 Common Tax Mistakes that people make, but who doesn’t love trying to get to the post office and get the taxes mailed at the very last second? Not only that, but if you are due a refund on your taxes, then you can delay getting your money from the government. Giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan is a really great way to keep your own money out of your pocket for just a little bit longer.   Not like you need that money to pay debts down, pay bills or bulk up your savings anyway…
  3. Leave off a few sources of income.  Failing to include all of your sources of income is number two on the Investopedia list of common tax mistakes.   When you leave off sources of income, the IRS is sure to find out about them anyway since the person or company who paid you will probably send a tax form to the IRS indicating that the payment has been made (you’ll get the form too). The IRS matches up the 1099s and other reports of income that come in and if you are missing some income, you get the added fun of getting noticed by the IRS for the discrepancy and potentially getting to pay late fees on top of paying your taxes.
  4. Be careless when completing the forms.  Surely, it doesn’t really matter if you write the wrong social security number on your income tax documents, if you don’t include the social security numbers of your spouse or kids or if you check single when you really are married—right?  The forms are only used to calculate your tax burden and make sure that the money and return goes to the right person… that’s probably not important as long as you send the forms in anyway!

These are definitely the best ways to make big mistakes with your income taxes. Now, it is up to you if you want to make these errors or if you want to do the smart thing and get your taxes filed on time and correctly so you don’t get the IRS after you.

Don’t be a dummy. Make a few wise choices, stay out of tax trouble, and enjoy a nice return. You deserve it.

About the author: Margaret Jackson is a full-time business/tax writer for a variety of publications. Prior to taking up the pen as her primary means of income, she worked as an internal auditor for a major corporation, which could explain her dry sense of humor. Now, she takes what she learned along the way to try and help people just like you.

Is Holiday Home A Good Investment?

A home somewhere warm and with a lovely environment is something that most of us dream about. Instead of living in a hotel it seems like a more attractive option to get your own apartment and spend a few weeks living more like the locals.

There are now more and more people buying into this dream and renting a holiday home abroad. But is this really a good investment opportunity?

What Does A Holiday Home Mean?

A holiday home is something that can help you add extra income to your finances in a relatively simple and nice way. You will purchase a house or an apartment in your preferred location and use it as your holiday home.

But instead of letting the apartment stay empty during the times you aren’t in, you rent it out to give yourself the opportunity to make some money out of it.

How To Get A Holiday Home?

A lot of the success of a holiday home depends on the amount of planning you do beforehand. The key to success is to spend a lot of time considering your own budget and thinking about what you want from the apartment. You need to make sure you are equipped in buying the holiday home and make a budget to see how much you need to take in as rent in order to pay back the property and start making money out of it.

Dalton’s Property also reminds that location is really the key thing in a good holiday home. Thus you need to spend a good amount of time looking into different areas and in the holiday opportunities in the area. Even though you are in love with a certain small townit might be that other holiday goers don’t know about it and thus you won’t be able to generate so much profit.

You don’t want to end up having to spend a lot of time marketing your home. Therefore it is always a good idea to focus on the location and get tips from experts.

Possibility For A Great Success

The truth is that buying a holiday home as investment can end up being a great choice. Not only is it able to provide you with a steady stream of additional income it will also be a nice way to spend your own holidays and have them stress-free.

The important thing you need to know is that this success isn’t simply guaranteed when you buy a holiday home. If you want this investment to succeed you will need to do a lot of research and planning before you get into this. It may be a good idea to consider other investment options, such as buying private equity at Dealmarket.

It is also really important you don’t get into a lot of debt when buying the holiday home.

But if you are prepared to look into the matter and perhaps ask professional opinion, a holiday home can be a nice option to consider. In terms of risks it is at the low end compared to other forms of investment but it will be a long-term investment so you need patience.

 

Author Bio: Deborah is into finding new investment opportunities and helping out people to make smart investment choices to secure their financial future. She is a big fan of spending time with her friends and loves going to musicals.

Top 5 Ways to Pay Off Logbook Loans

Loan payments on top of rent, bills, food and other living costs can seem like a burden, and it’s often difficult to work out just where the money’s going to come from. But it needn’t bring you down – with a straightforward logbook loan there are a number of simple repayment methods you can draw on to keep on top of things.

Use a reliable lender with repayment options to suit you
There are many logbook loan lenders out there more interested in taking your money, or car, or both than helping those with short-term cash flow problems. Use a reputable, reliable company such as V5 Loans UK, with whom you can work together to come up with a loan repayment plan lasting up to 78 weeks on loans between £500 and £20,000.

Don’t be punished for paying early
Some logbook loan companies impose early settlement penalties – meaning that if you gain access to funds and choose to pay off what you owe over a shorter period then you will be charged extra. Choosing a lender like V5 Loans UK, who charge no early settlement fees, means that you’ll get no nasty surprises if you decide to pay off your loan sooner than planned.

Extra work
When you’re already working a gruelling forty-hour week, taking on more work may be the last thing you want to do. But even just one extra hour a day can make all the difference at the end of the month. If are paid by the hour, consider asking your manager if you can work an extra hour every day. On the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour, an extra hour work a day will give you an additional gross sum of £126.20 at the end of the month – a tidy amount that could make a great deal of difference. If extra hours at your current workplace aren’t available, consider hospitality work on evenings and weekends – many agencies offer casual zero-hours contracts meaning you can choose to work at times convenient to you. Alternatively, if you fancy yourself as a writer, paid blogging websites such as Triond publish your content on other sites and pay you a share of the advertising revenue.

Alter your shopping habits
Substantial savings can be made from switching to non-branded food and toiletries, which are often indistinguishable from branded items and come at just a fraction of the price. A Panorama study showed that exchanging branded goods for ‘own’ brands yields a potential yearly saving of £4,000 – a figure which could pay off a large amount, or even all, of your logbook loan. Combine buying unbranded food with V5 Loans UK’s ‘no early settlement fees’ policy and you have a recipe for success.

Have a clear-out
Websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Amazon Marketplace are a great way to make some quick cash whilst clearing room in your home by getting rid of belongings you no longer need or use. Instead of allowing them to gather dust on a shelf, put your old DVDs, games and books up for sale and create wardrobe space by selling clothes you no longer wear – even if they don’t appear to be fetching a lot of money, it all adds up and in the end this could make a sizeable contribution to your repayments.

Though it may seem daunting, making small savings here and there and earning some extra cash isn’t difficult. Taking action today can ensure your logbook loan is paid off sooner rather than later, and a successfully paid-off loan can boost your credit score, making you more eligible for a loan from banks and other lending institutions.

Logbook Loans vs. Payday Loans – What Are The Differences?

Short-term solutions to cash-flow problems are heavily promoted across television and the Internet. So what is the best deal for consumers in need of immediate finance?

What may seem like the best choice, for anyone who needs fast cash, is a standard payday loan. Are there better alternatives on the market? A logbook loan from a regulated money lender like V5 Loans is, unlike payday loans, secured against the value of a vehicle. Both types of loan are considered to be short-term solutions. Take a look at the main differences between logbook loans and payday loans below:

Secured or Unsecured?

A logbook loan uses your vehicle as collateral to ensure a secured loan. V5 Loans is a secure alternative to unlicensed lenders. Since consumers are required to own a car that is free (or nearly free) of finance, this affects the eligibility of potential applicants. In contrast, payday loans are unsecured and present a higher risk to consumers in need of quick cash.

Credit Checks

Payday loans companies tend to perform extensive background checks on all applicants, and reject those with a poor credit history or zero credit rating. Conversely, V5 Loans do not perform credit checks on consumers, all they ask is proof of income and car ownership.

How Much Can I Borrow?

Payday loans provide considerably less money to successful applicants (at high APR rates) than sums agreed in a logbook loan. Logbook loan fees are dependent on a professional evaluation of your car and thousands of pounds can be paid out within 24 hours. Don’t forget, a high APR rate in a logbook loan is offset by a flexible service and complete transparency in the procedure. Therefore, it is important to contact a reputable and licensed loan lender like V5 Loans.

Loan Repayments

Get in touch with a money lender that does not charge early settlement fees, particularly if you acquire a logbook loan as the loan amount tends to be higher. Timely loan payments can boost your future credit rating, making your credit score a more attractive proposition with banks and other high street lenders.

Payment Methods

Check to see if the loan repayment schedule can be tailored to your lifestyle, a flexible loans service will incorporate a variety of payment methods, including bank transfers and standing order payments.

Choose a logbook loan company like V5 Loans for a hassle-free, straightforward and flexible loan arrangement. If you own a vehicle then a same day, secured loan will enable you to take control of your finances once more.

Need some extra money?

Need some extra money? Get a guarantor loan!

Let’s face it, at age 50 or above we are all already thinking about retirement (even though it still feels an age away). Well, if we are brutally honest, we have been thinking about it since we were 18… and maybe even earlier!

However, by the time we reach 50, the thought of retirement becomes much more real and when we are still struggling to make ends meet; retirement can seem much more of a dreaded reality than something we have been looking forward to for most of our lives.

I take incredible exception to a scaling down, ‘penny pinching’ mentality. Just because we are getting older does not mean that we should have to lower our standards in order to ensure that we maintain our standard of life.

Due to this, it is still important that we have exactly what we need in order to continue with our day to day lives. For example, if we need something fixing on our car after it has had an MOT or our boiler needs a repair because of a fault then we should not be scared to fix it purely because of the financial implications.

Despite this somewhat ‘care free and easy’ attitude, I know exactly what you are thinking while reading this: “I have a poor credit history and I have been denied a loan in the past. At my age, nobody will offer me a loan or credit.” This, however, could not be less true.

Despite credit history often being a barrier to securing a loan, we can now bypass our credit history by taking out out what is known as a ‘guarantor loan’ instead.

You are eligible for a guarantor loan if:

  • You have a friend or a family member who has agreed to be your guarantor if you are unable to pay your loan repayments.

  • Both you and your guarantor are in permanent employment.

You can even take a guarantor loan out if:

  • You have a poor credit history.

  • You have been decline for an unsecured loan.

In taking out a guarantor loan, you are able to rebuild your credit history and you do not have to secure the loan against your property as it is reliant upon a second person who will make the payment if you are unable to do so.

For more information on the finance of guarantor loans, visit 1st stop for quotes and more detailed information.

Everyone needs to grieve in their own way

Everyone needs to grieve in their own way, but you’re entitled to your inheritance.

Put simply, death is never pleasant and can shock families to the core. If a family member dies then emotions run high and family ties can become fraught.

Shock and grief are commonplace after bereavement and it is important to remember that everyone deals with the process differently. Some people take more time than others and people react differently in social situations. Just because someone is outgoing doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling. In fact, it can be them who have been affected the most and we need to be wary of their needs.

Often, bereavement brings families together and it is a chance for relatives who don’t often meet to bond: it is just a shame that this bonding process has a very somber tone.

However, such a tone can turn very sour if there is a financial dispute in the family. Generally this revolves around will disputes. As I’m sure you can imagine, even the slightest dispute can be blown out of proportion when tensions are running high. So, can you image the discovering that you’ve been ‘cut out’ of someone’s will? For many, this is simply the last straw.

Statistics show that almost two thirds of people do not have a will and an additional tenth of people admit to having made one without telling anyone where it is! Nearly half of those aged between 55 and 64 have not made a will (46%) with over a fifth having never thought about making one (22%), while over one in eight (13%) are relying on self-written wills, the validity of which is more likely to be challenged upon death.

The disputing of a will is complicated by a number of additional factors such as extended families or people being re-married after a divorce. This can mean that old rivalries re-surface and, as has previously been mentioned, relations can become fraught very quickly.

Years of legal challenges can come from cutting someone out of your will and it is never a decision that should be taken lightly.

As has been stated already, bereavement is a very long process and everyone deals with the process differently. However, if you feel like you’ve been ‘cut out’ of a will unfairly then you should act. Try contacting a company like Will Claim Solicitors to see if you can challenge the judgement with a no win no fee claim.

Essential Apps To Help Your Finances

Smartphone apps
cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Mr. T in DC

Considering how expensive things are these days, we need a way to keep track of our finances: this helps us to budget, plan, and prepare for the future. When we have a hold on our finances, we also have a hold on our lives. Similarly, what has made our lives more manageable has been the progress and evolution of mobile devices.

With our devices, we’re able to keep track of our emails, our loved ones, our calendars and, indeed, our finances. With this pocket-sized accountant and personal-assistant, many lives have been made easier and more manageable. But not all apps are equal for our phones.

These are the essential financial and personal assistant apps to get for your mobile device.

Mint

This handy app centralises all your expenses and income, by tracking all your savings, credit, and other accounts. All your credit card and bank spending can be monitored via Mint. After an initial setup, obviously, the App will take a reading of your incoming and outgoing expenses. From this, it can generate a sensible budget.

Available on iOS and Android.

Check.me

A necessary reminder to pay the bills on time, avoiding extra costs that incur as penalties.  Though not a fully-fleshed out app, like Mint, it may be necessary for its timely reminders, and ease-of-use if you don’t need a full app.

Available on iOS and Android.

PayPal

Known throughout the planet – and soon out of space – PayPal is the leading platform for monetary exchange, that makes for ease of handling due to its being universally acceptable.

The App allows for managing your PayPal account – which you can get for free – and monitor your invoices, your expenses, and so on.  You can even take a photo of a cheque to add money to your PayPal account for free. The App also allows you to locate local vendors who use PayPal so that you can pay securely.

Available on iOS and Android.

Homebudget

The major feature for this App is the multiple syncing feature. That is, new data and info and expenses can be uploaded through different formats – such as using an iPad, an Android phone, PC – and sync accordingly. Outcomes are readjusted according to this new data.

Pie charts, graphs and so forth can also better visualise the data. The full list of incredible features even includes adjusting to the local region.

Available on iOS and Android.

Conclusion

By using these apps, we have better grasp of large numbers, incomes, invoices and so forth that spiral around us like a tornado of incomprehensible data. Even just be noting numbers, we can do better. Allowing us to make better investments when making inquiries into new cars, home loan applications, and so on.

Data matters. Or, rather, manageable data matters, since pure data can be just noise that bogs us down. Considering the fast pace of modern living, we need a fast-pace form of financial assistance.

Author Bio: Terrence Stoker is a long-time finance writer and researcher of human behaviour, with a love for science and technology.

Four Tips To Pay Off Your Home Loan Faster

One of the ways many homeowners do to pay off their mortgage is to have the property refinanced. In a nutshell, mortgage refinancing is borrowing money from a lending company and using the money to pay off the first mortgage, with the property as collateral. While this is one way of taking care of your original mortgage, this does not change the fact though that you still owe someone money. It is just that the names, the loan terms, and the interest rate have changed.

There are better ways to pay off your home loan faster, and here are two tips to help you.

Pay More for Your Home Loan

One good way to pay off your home loan faster is to pay more. Not only will this shorten the duration of your home loan, but this will also help decrease your interest rate. Let us say for example that you are spending $100 for your family’s recreational activities (movies, takeout dinners, etc.) each month, then why not spend it on your home loan instead? An additional $100 monthly for your home loan is $1,200 yearly, saving you months of payments at the end of the home loan. Plus, there is also the reduced interest rate that you can enjoy if you pay more.

If you do not have $100 to spare, then you can simply round off your payments. Say for example you are paying $635 monthly, then why not pay $650 instead? The $15 may not seem much at first, but if you calculate your payments, you will be surprised to know that it just might save you from a couple of payments, for example.

So play with your mortgage calculator, shift figures around until you can find the perfect payment solution that will help pay off your home loan faster without tightening your belt up too much.

Spend Your Cash Windfalls Wisely

Let us say for example that you received a cash bonus or cash incentive from your employer for hitting your target quota or you received your yearly tax refund, what will you do? Go on a vacation with your family? Buy new gadgets for them? Pour the extra cash into your personal savings? Or pay off a big percentage of your home loan?

Separate your wants and needs. Vacation breaks and new gadgets are wants; things that you do not need right away. Savings and home loan, on the other hand, are needs; things that should matter to you. So spend your cash windfalls wisely; pour some into your personal savings, and pay off your home loan. That additional $2,000 you spend yearly on your home loan could mean, say for example, six years reduced from the original loan term.

Paying more for your home loan means living frugally and thriftily, but the sooner you pay off your home loan, the sooner you will get to enjoy your salary. Plus, think of the emotional and psychological benefits of being completely free from your home loan debts. After you have paid off your debts, you can enjoy your family vacations, your new gadgets, and your new home without the fear of losing it.

 

Author Bio: Jennifer Dalley is a freelance content provider for several finance sites and real estate blogs. If you want to enjoy affordable home loans, she recommends talking with your home builder for options. You can learn more here.