Tag Archives: tax tips

4 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft During Tax Season

Protect Your IdentityTax season isn’t just the money-making season for accountants and tax experts, it’s also when identity thieves cash in. According to MSN Money, the IRS has stopped nearly 15 million tax returns suspected of being fraudulent since 2011. But the government’s efforts to catch tax fraud aren’t foolproof: Over that same time span, Americans have suffered $3.5 billion in losses due to tax fraud. Tax scams are a pretty common means of trying to dupe consumers into handing over their personal information, so much so that the IRS releases an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the top tax fraud methods. Consumers need to be vigilant of these efforts and protect themselves from common fraud attempts. Here are four tips to keep your personal information secure. Follow these tax time tips from PennySaverUSA.com to keep your identity from being stolen.

File Your Tax Return Early

According to USA Today, tax experts recommend filing your tax return early just as a matter of avoiding increased fraud risks. The earlier taxes are filed, the less prepared or capable scammers will be to take advantage of you. Since many scammers will try to file a fake return ahead of you in order to receive the fraudulent return funds, early returns reduce the likelihood of this happening. The IRS receives your legitimate return first, making fraudulent returns sent in later very easy for the agency to identify. Search listings on PennySaverUSA.com to find a tax center near you.

Prepare and File Taxes Over Secure, Private Wi-Fi

Thanks to online tax preparation tools, many individuals are now able to complete even complex tax returns on their own. This saves them money while putting the quality of their return in their own hands. But how you prepare and file these returns makes a big difference in how exposed you might be to tax fraud. According to USA Today, public Wi-Fi networks can make it easy for scammers to steal your personal financial information. When preparing and filing taxes, make sure you use a secure, private Wi-Fi network that cannot be accessed by strangers.

Use Identity Theft and Credit Monitoring Services

Taking the necessary precautions will drastically reduce your risk of being victimized by tax fraud, but even a careful approach can’t guarantee you won’t be targeted by scammers. In some cases, it could be months before you are made aware of the fraud that has occurred to you. By then, the damage has already been done.

To make sure you are notified of any fraudulent activity attached to your name, it’s wise to invest in a credit monitoring or identity theft monitoring service. Companies like Lifelock specialize in providing comprehensive monitoring services to stop identity theft before it strikes. And if you are victimized, these services will let you know right away, minimizing the damage and helping you respond proactively.

Never Sign a Blank Return

If you choose to have your taxes completed by a tax preparer, one key tip: Never sign a blank return. If you do this, you basically hand over to the tax preparer the ability to do whatever they’d like with your return, including sending it to another address, falsifying documents or other attempts to commit fraud. Wait until the return is completely finished and put your name to paper only when it’s ready to be delivered to the IRS.

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Free Friday (Special Monday edition): Tax Day freebies include steak, fries and more

DISCLAIMER: THESE OFFERS ARE ONLY VALID ON TAX DAY (TUESDAY, APRIL 17)

Welcome to a special Tax Day (well, almost) edition of Free Friday! While this day might cause dread for many, PennySaverUSA promises to turn those frowns into smiles with an amazing array of freebies.

Let the food, drink and fun commence …

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Free Shanghai Angus Steak entrée from Panda Express: Simply go to the Panda Express Facebook page, download your coupon for a free steak entrée, print it out and bring it to a participating location and they will give you steak! No purchase necessary. Don’t you just love this Free Friday special Monday edition?

Free curly fries from Arby’s: Yet another super easy Free Friday offer that requires no purchase. Go to Arby’s Facebook page, enter your name, print the coupon and take it in to the nearest Arby’s and they’ll hand you an order of free curly fries.

Free individual meal from Boston Market: This one does require a purchase, but it’s still a pretty darn good offer. Buy any individual meal and a fountain drink and you’ll get a second individual meal for free as long as you print and bring in this coupon.

Dessert

Free frozen yogurt from Maggie Moo’s: From 4 p.m.-7 p.m., popular ice cream chain Maggie Moo’s is handing out a free scoop of their delicious new yogurt flavors. The only thing you need to do is walk in the door.free-friday-cinnabon

Free Cinnabon bites: Visit any participating Cinnabon location from 6 p.m-8 p.m. and they will give you not just one, but two, of their Cinnabon Bites treats, which are bite-sized versions of their traditional cinnamon roles.

Drink

Free coffee from Seattle’s Best: Once you Like Seattle’s Best on Facebook, you will then be prompted to fill out a short form with your name and address, which they will use to mail you a free 1.75 oz. sample of Seattle’s Best coffee!

Massage

Free massage from HydroMassage: Print this coupon and then call your local HydroMassage location for an appointment time this week (April 16-April 20) and you’ll get a free massage. NOTE: This is the only deal that extends past April 17.

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Save Money Monday: Discounted tax services

This is Part IV of PennySaverUSA’s tax tips series

Getting your taxes done does not have to cost a fortune. There are many inexpensive options available.

In this tax tips edition of our Save Money Monday blog, we will help you find the most cost-effective way of completing your taxes.

For those of you who would prefer to do your own taxes, there are a variety of discounted online tax services to choose from.

Turbo Tax

Turbo Tax is one of the leading providers of tax services software, and they offer a “Federal free edition” that enables you to use their easy-to-use software at no cost to fill out a 1040EZ form. To get more information on whether you qualify for the 1040EZ form click here.

If you have a more complicated tax return, Turbo Tax has a sale going on right now for $20 off their Deluxe edition (NOW: $29.99, WAS: $49.99) that includes free expert tax advice. They also have state tax software on sale.

H&R Block

H&R Block provides another excellent alternative for doing your taxes affordably using online software. With this outstanding offer, you can get their Deluxe edition for only $38.21, a 15 percent discount from the regular price.

Similar to Turbo Tax, H&R Block also offers free software to use for simple returns and has state tax software for sale.

CompleteTax

A third possibility for online discounted tax services is Complete Tax. They have a 28% off sale for their Deluxe edition, which is priced at $25.46 after the discount. Like Turbo Tax and H&R Block, they too offer free software to fill out simple federal returns and state software.

The site Tax-Compare has a great breakdown and each software to help you determine which one fits your needs the best.

PennySaverUSA

The best way to save time and money on your tax services is to find a local tax professional that is offering a discount. PennySaverUSA.com contains coupons for tons of local tax professionals.

Whichever route you choose, just remember that affordable tax services are available.

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Tax Tips: Deciding how many exemptions to take

This is Part III of PennySaverUSA’s tax tips series

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The tax process begins when you decide how many exemptions to take.

The final step of the tax process is actually filing your taxes. The process begins when you are first hired at your job and decide how many exemptions you would like to claim.

There are two types of exemptions you can take:

  1. Personal Exemptions
  2. Dependency Exemptions

A personal exemption is the amount you can deduct from your taxable income.

The exemption for a single person is $3,700. If you are married, you can claim your spouse as a second exemption also worth $3,700 for a total of $7,400.

A dependency exemption is the amount you can deduct from your taxable income for each dependent you have. According to the IRS web site, the term dependent means a qualifying child (defined here) or a qualifying relative (defined here).

The complete rules for claiming a dependent can be found here on the IRS web site.

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Tracy Academia from Academia Tax Service did a great job of explaining exemptions to PennySaverUSA.com in a phone interview.

“When you claim 0 exemptions, the government is going to take a higher amount of taxes from your paycheck. If you take more exemptions, they’ll take out less from your paycheck,” said Academia. “So if you need a little extra money each paycheck, you should claim your exemption(s), but if you are doing fine and are comfortable (financially), you (could) put 0 exemptions and you get more at the end of the year.”

For more information about tax exemptions, please contact Tracy at (951) 485-5536 or scan PennySaverUSA.com to find local tax services in your area.

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Tax tips: Understanding the different 1040 forms

This is Part II of PennySaverUSA’s tax tips series

In this tax tips blog post we are going over the differences between all of the 1040 tax forms.

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PennySaverUSA's tax tips are here to help make tax time fun!

Just about everyone has to complete at least one 1040 tax form, and some people have to fill out several, depending on their situation. For complete details please visit the IRS web site or contact a tax accountant.

Search PennySaverUSA.com online classifieds to find the most trusted local tax services in your area at great prices.

Below is a brief explanation of what each 1040 form is and for whom it applies.

Form 1040 EZ: According to tax professional Ken Wells from Ken Wells Tax Service & Bookkeeping, this form is “a simplified version that is primarily for people with one or two W2s. (It applies most) for students or single people with moderate incomes.” Please visit Ken Wells’ web site or call 888-556-4590 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 888-556-4590 end_of_the_skype_highlighting to get more information and set up an appointment.

Not everyone is eligible to fill out this form. Here is a list of the key requirements (for the full list of requirements, please visit the IRS web site):

  • Must be single or married filing jointly
  • You can’t claim dependents
  • You must be under the age of 65
  • Your income is less than $100,000
  • You do not claim student loan interest deduction
  • You are not claiming an educational or health coverage tax credit

Form 1040A: The next easiest income tax form to fill out. It is less restrictive than the form 1040EZ. The key for this form is that you are not allowed to itemize your deductions and you must have made less than $100,000 in taxable income. Please visit the IRS web site for more information.

Form 1040-ES: This is an estimated tax form for 2012. It’s only applicable to people who think they will owe at least $1,000 in tax for this year (which would be paid next year). If you don’t think you will owe over $1,000 when you file next year’s taxes, then you can ignore this form.TurboTax - Choose Easy

Form 1040 Schedule A: If you plan on using itemized deductions, instead of the standard deduction, then this form is a must (check here to learn more about the difference between a standard and itemized deduction). As Wells says, however, using itemized deductions “is more complicated.” He cites home mortgage interest and charitable donations as an example of itemized deductions or “write-offs”. For more information, please call him at 888-556-4590 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 888-556-4590 end_of_the_skype_highlighting to set up an appointment or visit the IRS web site.

Form 1040 Schedule B: Unless you had significant interest income or have a financial account in a foreign country, this form is unlikely to apply for you.

Form 1040 Schedule C: This form primarily applies to small businesses and independent contractors. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, you can skip this one.

Form 1040 Schedule D: New for this year, Form 8949 replaces what was before Schedule D-1. Schedule D and Form 8949 pertain mostly to capital gains and losses. Don’t worry about this form unless you made or lost money last year from a sale of assets such as stocks or property.

Form 1040 Schedule SE: Only applies to those who were self-employed.

Form 1040X: You can ignore this form unless you have to make an amendment to your taxes or want to correct a mistake you made when you filled out an earlier tax form.

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Tax tips: The difference between standard and itemized deductions

Tax time is here and PennySaverUSA is proud to present a new blog series dedicated to providing tax tips to help you embrace Uncle Sam, instead of viewing him as the boogeyman.

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Don't let Uncle Sam bring you down. Get tax tips from PennySaverUSA.com

Kicking off the series is this blog post about the differences between federal standard and itemized deductions. Understanding the distinction between the two is the foundation for everything else.

  • Standard deduction — The given dollar amount from the federal government that you can deduct from your taxable income.
  • Itemized deductions — Deductions you claim based on things like mortgage interest, charitable donations, career expenses and much more. Visit the IRS web site for more details.

When you choose to take the standard deduction, it makes your tax filing a lot simpler and enables you to use either the Form 1040 EZ or the Form 1040A, which are both much easier to complete.

The amount of your standard deduction varies depending on your income and can be calculated in about five minutes on the IRS web site.

Once you determine what your standard deduction would be, it is then time to count the value of your itemized deductions.

If you choose to itemize your deductions, it is advised that you find a local tax professional to assist you with your taxes.

Two important notes:

  1. You cannot claim both the standard deduction AND the itemized deductions. You must pick one or the other.
  2. If you choose the itemized deductions, you should keep receipts for every item you decided to deduct, just in case you were to get audited.

Should your itemized deductions add up to more than the standard deduction, it makes sense to forgo the standard deduction and used the itemized deductions.

As a very general reference point (for detailed explanations based on your own unique situation please visit the IRS web site and see a certified tax professional), here are some pointers to help you decide if you should take the standard or itemized deductions:

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PennySaverUSA.com has deals on tax service

It’s that time of year again. A time some of us dread, and others of us can’t wait to arrive: Tax Time! Thankfully, PennySaverUSA.com is a great resource for those in need of tax service.

No matter whether you are receiving a refund check from Uncle Sam or sending him a payment, it is a hassle to get your taxes done. It can also be daunting to find an affordable place to go for your tax service.

Our online classifieds feature dozens of tax service companies, so that’s a good place to start your search. While many of them have good offers, a few in particular seem to be running some outstanding specials.

tax service

It's time to look for tax service again.

If you live in the San Diego metro area, Coast-to-Coast Tax Service in Escondido has an excellent deal. They are offering bank-fee free tax refunds as long as you bring in the coupon from their site.

For those located in the Los Angeles/Orange County region, it’s worthwhile to check out Federal Direct Tax Services. They will do your taxes for as low as $50.

And if you are located in or near Sacramento, PaperClips Inc. has several nice coupon offers.

Should you happen to live in South Florida, the Liberty Tax Service branch in Pembroke Pines has a coupon for a 29 percent discount. They are also starting “Displaced Workers Appreciation Week”, in which people who were unemployed last year, and have a 1099-G form, get their taxes done for free (until April 1).

No matter which tax service you pick, however, we want you to be happy with the results, so please visit the IRS web site for useful tips on choosing a tax preparer.

As for the ones who insist on doing the taxes themselves, Borders Books is running a store-wide 33 percent off deal right now, which you can use to buy books of tax tips. If you want to do your taxes online, make sure to check out this site for a detailed breakdown of each product.

One last note: Your taxes are due on April 18 this year, instead of the usual April 15.

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