Happy New Tax Year! That's right, 2016 is here and that means not only tax (and personal) resolutions, but the rapidly approaching start of the annual tax filing season.
And you know what that means. Yep, it's time for this year's edition of Daily Tax Tips.
These bits of tax information are designed primarily to help you file your 2015 tax return. But since tax filing season for the prior year overlaps with the current tax year, some of the daily tips will offer info on cutting your 2016 tax bill.
Weekdays only: Last year the daily tips technically were just weekday tips. That worked out pretty well for me (and the hubby who, after all these years, still likes to spend time with me on weekends when he's not working) and, from the feedback I got, for readers of the ol' blog.
So I'm sticking with the Monday-through-Friday tips again this year.
Borrowing from Bankrate: Another carryover is that some of the tips will be directly from me here at Don't Mess With Taxes, either as links to earlier posts or new items, while others will come from my articles posted at Bankrate.com.
As most of the ol' blog's readers know, I am contributing tax editor and chief tax reporter for Bankrate. So it just makes sense (see my previous comment about weekends with the hubby) for me to work smarter, not harder, and share those items instead of recreating them.
Old, new, touched-up tips: In addition to finding the tips for January listed here (and February, March and April tips on their own pages as those months arrive), the Daily Tax Tips will be highlighted at the top of the ol' blog's right column.
Long-time readers also probably will notice that many of these tips have shown up here (and at Bankrate) before. That's not because I'm just phoning it in. It's because taxes are a lot like a car.
The basic tax chassis (the Internal Revenue Code) tends to stay the same, but you do need to do some tune-ups (annual tax-related inflation adjustments) and occasionally change the tires (like when some temporary tax laws became permanent thanks to the December 2015 tax extenders/fiscal 2016 budget bill changes).
Regardless of whether the daily tip is an oldie-but-goodie or a totally new piece of tax info from Bankrate or Don't Mess With Taxes, all should help in your 2015 return filing or 2016 tax planning.
Multiple tip access options: You'll find a new tip each weekday in the ol' blog's upper right corner. I'll try to get the post up as early as I can each day, but I learned long ago to make as few time-related promises as possible. Life just seems to mess up my calendars and clocks too much of the time!
If you miss the daily notice, the tips will once again be collected on monthly directory pages (like this one for January).
Most of January's tips listed here are focused on helping early filers who are ready anxious to get their 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service and refunds back ASAP. As February, March and April arrive, the tips will offer insight on more complicated tax matters -- those aggravations intricacies are why many of us put off filling our returns -- as well as advice on how to save on your 2016 taxes.
And with that housekeeping out of the way -- and with the the tax clock ticking (literally; check it out in the ol' blog's right column) -- let's get to this year's Daily Tax Tips.
- Filing season 2016 opens on Jan. 19 -- Thanks to Congress' approval of tax extenders and a budget bill with tax provisions by the middle of last December, the IRS says it will be ready to start the 2016 filing season on time. That's on Tuesday, Jan. 19, for the processing of all returns, either paper or e-filed. Plus, Free File will open for eligible filers a bit earlier, on Friday, Jan. 15. (Jan. 4, 2016)
- 10 New Year's tax resolutions -- Have you made your New Year's resolutions? Chances are there's a tax resolution that mirrors the personal self-improvement goals most of us set every January. And if you keep your New Year's tax resolutions, they could save you some time, money and peace of mind. Here are 10 to consider. (Jan. 5, 2016)
- 10 top tax issues for 2016 -- With the start of the 2016 tax-filing season just around the calendar corner, you're rightfully focusing on filing your 2015 tax return. Check out these 10 tax matters that could affect that process, as well as your 2016 taxes. (Jan. 6, 2016)
- Get organized for tax season -- Tax filing can be less frustrating and less time-consuming when you're ready for the task. The first step is organizing your tax material. (Jan. 7, 2016)
- Check out your tax brackets -- The same seven tax rates still apply, but the income that falls into the 2015 and 2016 tables is slightly different. You'll want to focus on the 2015 tax rates and income brackets until you get that tax return, due by April 18, done. Then turn your attention to the 2016 table for guidance on steps to take this year to cut your already accruing tax bill. (Jan. 8, 2016)
- Watch out for these Dirty Dozen tax scams -- The start of a new tax filing season means an increase in tax scams. Don't fall for these 12 tax cons that popped up last year, from the long-standing frivolous arguments against paying income taxes to the newer and still growing fake IRS agent telephone scam. Most of them are likely to still be around during the 2016 filing season. (Jan. 11, 2016)
- Tax refund loan alternatives -- The Internal Revenue Service's processing of tax returns is slowed more each year by added review efforts to stop tax identity theft and refund fraud. That's why many filers are tempted to sidestep the IRS in order to get their refunds more quickly via refund advance loans (RALs) or refund advance checks (RACs). Don't. Even if you're counting on your tax refund to pay for life's necessities, you'd probably be better off waiting a bit. You won't get your tax money that much sooner than if you go through official IRS channels and RALs and RACs could cost you a lot more in fees and interest charges. (Jan. 12, 2016)
- The skinny on paying estimated taxes -- Your final 2015 estimated tax payment is due Jan. 15. Miss it and you could end up owing the Internal Revenue Service more. (Jan. 13, 2016)
- What's your filing status? -- It sounds like a simple question, but the correct answer could make a difference in your tax bill. Divorced filers and single parents need to pay special attention to their filing statuses. (Jan. 14, 2016)
- Picking the perfect tax pro -- Most taxpayers rely on professional help to complete and file their annual returns. You have lots of options when it comes to tax pro choices. Here are some ways to pick the tax pro that's perfect for your tax needs. Once you select the type of tax pro, be sure to carefully check out the specific preparer, too. (Jan. 15, 2016)
- Tax breaks for life's big events -- Did you start the new year with a new baby (or two)? Children, as well as weddings, divorces, job changes and other major event in your life usually have tax implications. (Jan. 18, 2016)
- E-filing and Free Filing now available -- Federal tax filing season 2016 opened on Jan. 19, with millions of taxpayers expected to once again submit their returns electronically. Many of them can do so at no cost thanks to Free File. And remember, most states collect income taxes and those states' filing seasons also got underway today, too. (Jan. 19, 2016)
- Claiming personal tax exemptions -- Every filing season you can take an exemption for yourself, your spouse and each dependent you claim. On 2015 returns due April 18, 2016, this exemption amount is $4,000 per person; it was bumped up by inflation to $4,050 for 2016 taxes. Your total exemption amount helps you get your adjusted gross income to a lower taxable level. So make sure you don't miss any exemptions. (Jan. 20, 2016)
- What's your tax IQ? -- The 2016 tax season is upon us! Before you tackle your 1040, find out what you know about filing taxes with these 10 multiple choice quiz questions. (Jan. 21, 2016)
- Standard deduction amounts for 2015 -- Most taxpayers claim the standard deduction. The amount is different for each filing status and adjusted for inflation each year. Here are the amounts that will apply to your 2015 tax return. (Jan. 22, 2016)
- Standard vs. itemized deductions -- Choosing which deduction method to use is easy. Pick the one that will help you get the lowest tax bill. For most filers, that's the standard claim. But run the numbers before making your final decision. (Jan. 25, 2016)
- Do you have to file a return? -- Probably. Most of us do. But some folks escape this task. Here are the rules. (Jan. 26, 2016)
- Picking the proper Form 1040 -- You have three tax return options: the long 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. The form you pick could save, or cost, you money. (Jan. 27, 2016)
- 10 common tax filing mistakes -- Taxes are tough enough. Don't make things worse by committing one of these common and easily avoidable tax-filing errors. (Jan. 28, 2016)
- Tax documents on the way -- Before you can file your tax return, you need some basic information. Everybody knows about the W-2 wage statement. And with more folks working side jobs, a variety of 1099 forms are more common nowadays. But there are even more tax documents out there. Be on the lookout for (most of) them in your email or snail mail boxes soon. (Jan. 29, 2016)
But wait, there's more! As soon as January wraps, be sure to check out February's (and March's and April's) Daily Tax Tips. They'll run through the April 18 (yes, we get more time this year) filing deadline.
Can't get enough tax tips? Check out Don't Mess With Taxes' continually expanding collection of year-round tax tips and money moves.