For some Americans, tax season doesn’t mean a refund. If you expect to owe, you’re not alone. In 2017 about 25 percent of LendUp customers expected to owe money upon filing their taxes.
As of January 29, tax season is officially here. Remember, your last date to file is April 17.
So now that we have the dates out of the way, have you decided how you’ll file this year? Make sure to consider all of your potential costs, even if you don't plan to file until the end of tax season. That way you can try to put aside a little money each month to cover what you’ll owe and any preparation fees.
So let’s dive in -- here are five tips to help you get through tax season.
1 - Know How You’ll File (and take advantage of free options!)
There’s good news here! There are a number of free and low-cost options for getting your taxes prepared. And if you’re already expecting to owe money, every dollar counts. Below are a few options:
- Credit Karma now offers free tax preparation -- no conditions!
- File online for free at MyFreeTaxes.com, sponsored by the nationwide nonprofit United Way, and powered by H&R Block. Your household income must have been less than $66,000 in 2017 to qualify for the free service.
- Use the IRS website’s Free File software if your household income was less than $66,000 in 2017.
- You can also visit the IRS website to file if your household income was more than $66,000 in 2017, but you’ll need to know how to fill the forms out yourself (no free software available).
- If your income was less than $54,000, you could qualify for free tax preparation (in-person, with electronic filing) at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location. They also offer free tax prep for persons with disabilities and limited English speakers. Call 800-906-9887 or use the online tool to find a location near you.
- If you’re over the age of 60, you may qualify for free tax help through Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).
2 - Don’t Miss out on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
EITC is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income. Learn more about the program here, and use the handy EITC Assistant to see if you qualify. In addition, if you were affected by Hurricanes Irma or Maria, or Hurricane Harvey, you may be eligible for additional tax relief through EITC.
3 - Beware of Scams
Scams tend to increase during tax season. According to the IRS, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars due to tax scammers. Please keep in mind that the IRS will never initiate contact by email, text message, or social media to ask for personal or financial information. Read more tips to protect yourself (and check this out, too!).
4) Worried About Paying?
Paying a large chunk of your income at tax time can be a big hit to your budget. If you’ve prepared throughout the year for what you’ll owe, hopefully there won’t be any surprises. However, perhaps you had unexpected expenses and didn’t have the opportunity to set that money aside. If you are a qualified taxpayer, you could request a payment plan from the IRS.
You may qualify to apply for a long-term payment plan if you owe less than $50,000 or a short-term payment plan if you owe less than $100,000. Remember that if you’re a sole proprietor or independent contractor, you may apply as an individual.
5 - More Ways to Save
If you expect to owe, try to set aside some money each month for the anticipated amount that you’ll owe. Even if you’re not ready to file, you should be able to get an estimate from your preparer prior to submitting. And one of LendUp’s partners, SpringFour, could connect you to local cost savings. Enter your zip code to get started with SpringFour here. Groceries, utilities and prescriptions are just a few of the 26 categories available on SpringFour’s platform. And if you’d simply like to brush up on some savings tips, why not watch this video?
Disclaimer: LendUp is not providing financial, legal or tax advice. If you need or want such advice, please consult a qualified advisor.