Tag Archives: april 15

Follow the (tax) money

Now that you’ve paid your taxes, where is all that money going?

KQED’s YouDecide tool lets you answer a poll about whether your money is being well spent, and shares data about where the money really goes.

It turns out that in three major categories – defense, health care and education – we direct more of our budget than the average member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

So far, 55% of respondents have said that tax dollars aren’t being spent well by the federal government. Add your voice at YouDecide.

YouthRadio’s Making Cents series tackles taxes and gets young people sharing what comes to mind when they hear those letters: I.R.S.

And to lighten up Tax Day a bit, Nightly Business Report has a piece on the pressures of filing taxes. Watch tax experts go head-to-balance sheet in: Iron Accountant.

More taxing times

Tax Day is next Thursday, so in honor of all the last-minute procrastinators out there (and the accountants who help them!), here are few final tips and stories about tax season from around the country.

In Maryland, volunteers who just couldn’t get enough fun doing their own taxes are opening their slates to help low-income families get their taxes done — an important task, because many low-income filers are missing out on a big credit.

Georgia Samios of WYPR in Baltimore reports:

Here at Ray of Hope Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore, volunteers are helping low income people fill out tax returns. They want to make sure that those who qualify get the earned income tax credit, which can literally put money in people’s pockets. .. That means more people are covered, says the Internal Revenue Service’s Peggy Riley.
“It’s a big expansion over other years, and with the amount of unemployment we’re figuring many more people will probably qualify for the earned income tax credit this year,” she says.

A similar volunteer program is underway in Seattle, where the public library is home base to help people get their taxes done. This year, there’s more confusion as many of those seeking help are underemployed or unemployed.

NPR’s Wendy Kaufman reports:

The pain is evident at the Seattle Public Library. Part of the library’s fifth floor has been turned into tax central for the past several weekends. Low-income people are getting free help in filing their tax returns.
Courtney Noble of the United Way is in charge of the program.
“We see more people every year — and this year, we see a lot of our same customers from last year,” Noble said.

In California, tax credits passed down to homeowners from a bill passed in the 1970s are causing intense debate as the state faces a budget crunch.

In San Diego, where the housing crisis hit particularly hard last year, residents are facing off with legislators as tax time approaches and the county stands to bring in less money in property taxes. California Proposition 13 passed more than 30 years ago and gave huge tax breaks to homeowners, aiming at helping them stay in their homes and not be “taxed out” over time. But now the state is questioning the law’s relevance. KPBS produced a recent special The Legacy of Prop. 13 analyzing the bill’s influence.

Joanne Faryon reports on Prop. 13′s impact:

Prop 13 locked in property assessments at 1 percent of the purchase price, and limited yearly increases to 2 percent. The result: California has among the lowest property tax rates in the country. In fact, more then half of all the homes in San Diego County are assessed below market value.

For last minute tips, Nightly Business Report continues it series with Kiplinger’s Kevin McCormally. Recent tips include help Supercharging You Standard Deduction and changes in Demutualized Stock Sales.

Many happy returns

It’s that time of year again. The time when all the procrastinators start fretting April 15: tax day. Paying taxes isn’t what most of us would consider fun, but here are some great resources for getting your filing in on time and taking advantage of credits along the way.

Nightly Business Report’s Tax Tips with Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger’s Finance reviews the best ways to get the most out of your possible credits. This week he explores college tax credits:

For 2009, the hope credit is replaced by a more valuable American opportunity credit for most students. The new credit is worth up to $2,500 for up to four years of college. If you paid bills for three undergrads last year, you could knock $7,500 off your tax bill. And if you earned too much in the past to qualify for the hope credit, don’t give up hope for the American opportunity credit.

Now that it’s crunch time, should you still try to file on your own, or is it worth it to hire an accountant? NPR’s Tamara Keith asked Facebook fans of NPR to tell their stories of tax preparation, including this one from David Falcheck, who is happy to go it alone:

“This year I think I really got over the hump and it took me less time than I thought it was going to take,” says Falchek. But there was a time when Falchek decided his taxes had gotten too complicated to handle on his own.

And there are several stories of marital tension (and at least one of bliss) about tax season:

In Lincoln, Neb., Jody Boyce and her husband do their taxes together on the same date every year. The tradition started several years ago… But taxes don’t spell romance for everyone. One person who commented said she and her husband turned to an accountant after doing their own taxes caused the ugliest argument in their eight-year relationship.

Whether you’re an early starter who has already filed and put your refund safely in the bank, or you’re still procrastinating, here are some tips from Marketplace about how we can all do better end-of-year planning in 2010.

Former Wall Street Journal tax columnist Tom Herman suggests:

Start by taking a fresh look at your investments. Focus on your losers, that are now selling for less than you paid for them. If you were thinking of dumping them between now and the year end, this is a good time to do it. I know that it’s painful to admit you’ve lost money on a stock.