With the 2019 tax season around the corner, here are some deductibles you probably didn’t know about. Buzz60’s Natasha Abellard has the story.
Doing your taxes is often a pain, but this year could be extra torturous – thanks to the new tax law changes.
Personal exemptions and certain deductions have been eliminated, while the standard deduction and the child care credit have increased significantly. Those who typically itemize may find that the higher standard is the way to go this year.
Add in the short-staffed resources at the IRS during the government shutdown – limited phone service and no walk-in assistance centers – and that may have left many taxpayers feeling abandoned in a particularly difficult tax-filing year.
Don’t worry, there are a host of online tools from the government and tax preparation companies that can help you understand your tax situation.
Understanding the new law
Wondering how the new tax law affects your taxes? There are two good calculators that can help you to get the full picture of the effect of the new law.
TurboTax in October released its Tax Reform Calculator that USA TODAY reviewed. Based on anonymous TurboTax data on filers from 2017, the calculator breaks down how much less, or more, residents in each state could pay in federal taxes. It also estimates what share of state residents will owe more, less or the same compared with 2017.
“This is helpful in seeing what people with similar profiles as you – what their tax situation is like,” said Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and tax expert at TurboTax.
The tax preparation company also has its TaxCaster tool that will estimate whether you will get a refund or owe money, taking the tax reform into account. “It also provides a side-by-side that shows the line items that changed,” Greene-Lewis said.
H&R Block wraps tax reform and tax refund estimator into one calculator called the Free Income Tax Calculator. The tool asks for information on your personal situation – such as tax status, age, income and expenses – to predict what refund you can expect and how the tax reform affected your tax bracket, credits, deductions and more.
Doing your taxes
The IRS provides a free E-File option that doesn’t require any tax preparation software. It also offers a standard checklist of items that you need before starting your taxes. For a more interactive and customized list, turn to TurboTax or H&R Block.
TurboTax also helps you figure out if you should take the increased standard deduction this year rather than itemize with an interactive tool. It also offers more targeted tools for those who end up itemizing or who are self-employed:
Dependents Credit & Deduction Finder: Find out if you can claim a dependent based on your answers to specific questions.
Education Credit & Deduction Finder: Find out which education credits and deductions you can claim on your tax return.
Need extra help?
If the online tools aren’t enough to help you navigate your taxes this year, you can reach many tax pros for help. Remember: Customer service is limited at the IRS because of the shutdown, so you may want to try these resources instead.
H&R Block has three tiers of offerings for its online customers who may need just a bit more assistance.
Ask a Tax Pro: an online chat with a real tax professional.
Tax Pro Go: allows someone to upload documents that are then dropped off to a tax pro, who prepares returns start to finish. No office visit is required.
Tax Pro Review: for do-it-yourself filers who start preparing their own return and decide they want a professional to review it. “They can it hand off to the tax expert, who reviews the return and documents, signs it and files it for them,” says Kathy Pickering, executive director at H&R Block’s Tax Institute.
TurboTax also has its TurboTax Live online function that allows you to speak with certified public accountants if you have questions on your return. These CPAs can also review, sign and file for you.
After you file
You’re not necessarily done with your taxes after you file. There are a handful of tools that can help you track your refund, manage a payment to Uncle Sam and adjust your taxes for 2019..
First, you may want to know when you’ll get your refund. The IRS can help with its Where’s My Refund? tool. It’s also available as a mobile app.
“Once submitted, within 24 hours, you can get a graphic view of where your refund is in the process,” says Pickering. “Once the IRS approves your refund, you get a date for the refund.”
If you end up paying the government this year – or your refund was smaller than you expected – you may want to adjust your paycheck withholdings to avoid the same situation next year. The IRS, TurboTax and H&R Block all offer withholding calculators to do just this.
If you owe money and can’t pay in one lump sum, use the Online Payment Agreement Application from the IRS to apply for a payment arrangement. “People have a lot of options when they owe money,” Pickering says. “It’s pretty straightforward.”
Americans are spending more on taxes than on food and clothing. Elizabeth Keatinge has more.
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