The tax season is almost upon us! Last week I briefly mentioned a realization that I recently had concerning my tax refund this year. Because my salary is relatively low compared to the money I spend on my mortgages (most of which is interest payment), I generally receive a nice, hefty tax refund. Last year's refund allowed me to pay down a good chunk of credit card debt, and add some money to my emergency fund.
This year, however, I created a little estimate of my 2008 tax refund, and determined that--because of the earnings from my second job--I'll be lucky to get even $200 back! Egads! I was counting on a healthy refund to pad my 'internship year' fund, with which I'll make up the loss in earnings I'm anticipating next year. (Note: it's amazing to me that I'm even planning ahead for this. A year and a half ago, it would never have entered my mind that I would actually be able to save enough money to allow myself to work part-time temporarily).
I've been reading articles about the latest U.S. 'stimulus package' to learn whether I can expect a 'rebate' check this year, which may help. Actually, there appear to be quite a few changes in the works that could help many American taxpayers this year:
- First-time homebuyer's credit: my prospective realtor mentioned this to me late last summer, when I was researching the feasibility of selling my house (I decided not to try just yet). The catch is that the $7,500 'credit' is actually an interest-free loan to be paid back over 15 years. There are rumors, however, that the 'loan' may be transitioned into a true 'credit', though, so if you purchased a home after April 8, 2008, you will want to keep your ears pricked.
- Foreclosure tax break: I sincerely hope none of you are in the midst of a financial crisis that resulted in the foreclosure of your home. However, if this did happen, there appears to be a (slight) silver lining to that black cloud: Whereas in the past, forgiven mortgage debt was actually TAXED, this year any forgiven debt under $2 million will be tax free.
- The standard deduction is increasing: to $10,900 for married couples filing jointly, to $5450 for singles and married filing separately, and $8,000 for head of household.
- The personal exemption is also going up: of course, it's increasing by a mere $100, but in this kind of economy, every little bit helps!
- Don't forget the benefit of free filing: if your adjusted gross income is less than $56,000, you're eligible for Free File. I use H & R Block, and have found the website to be user-friendly and accurate. There are many companies that can help, though, so go to http://www.irs.gov for more information.
The inevitable disclaimer: I'm not a tax professional, just a mere mortal trying to figure this stuff out myself. For questions or more information, check out the IRS website. I've actually found this site to have a wealth of information, especially the various electronic publications housed on the site---there's even a toll-free number you can call for additional assistance!