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The IRS Urges Taxpayers to File Their Taxes in Order to Receive a Stimulus Check

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • The IRS is urging taxpayers to file as soon as possible in order to reap the benefits of this package.
  • If you have yet to file for your 2018 tax year, this could potentially affect your ability to receive a stimulus check. 
  • The IRS recommends that taxpayers file their tax returns as quickly as possible and that non-filers consider contacting a tax professional to assist them with their unfiled tax years.

The new stimulus package is meant to assist both taxpayers and businesses that have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The package is meant to provide relief and aid to those that have been left without a paycheck, become unemployed, or are a business that has experienced a loss of customers.

In order to qualify for any compensation received from the stimulus package, you must have filed your taxes within the last two years.

The IRS is urging taxpayers to file as soon as possible in order to reap the benefits of this package. The IRS has notified taxpayers that in order to receive any potential credits or rebates, your 2018 and/or 2019 tax returns will need to be filed. If you have yet to file for your 2018 tax year, this could potentially affect your ability to receive a stimulus check. 

Once delinquent returns have been filed and a taxpayer is fully compliant, they are able to resolve any outstanding tax liabilities by either negotiating an installment agreement or inquiring with a tax professional to see if they qualify for an Offer in Compromise with the IRS in order to obtain a “Fresh Start.”

The IRS recommends that taxpayers file their tax returns as quickly as possible and that non-filers consider contacting a tax professional to assist them with their unfiled tax years.

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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What You Need to Know About the Covid-19 Stimulus Package

Updated on March 30, 2020

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared that Americans that requested direct deposit on their tax return could expect their stimulus checks to be deposited directly into their bank account within three weeks.
  • If you filed a paper copy tax return or opted out of direct deposit, the government will send a check in the mail.
  • The following will not receive a stimulus check: children who are 17 or 18 years old, adults claimed as dependents, nonresident aliens, estates, individuals who earn more than $99,000 or married couples earning more than $189,000, and people who have not filed their 2018 and 2019 tax return.

Click here to learn more about the stimulus package.

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • The White House and Senate leaders struck a deal to pass a $2 trillion virus stimulus package to assist struggling businesses and taxpayers.
  • Individuals who are earning $75,000 or less in adjusted gross income will receive a check for $1,200 while married couples earning up to $150,000 would receive a check for $2400 – and an additional $500 per child in their household.
  • The new deal also calls for a new pandemic unemployment assistance program to provide assistance to those who are unemployed, partially employed, or for those who are unable to work due to the virus outbreak.

On March 25, Senate leaders approved a $2 trillion stimulus package created to assist struggling businesses as well as taxpayers. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have been left without jobs and businesses are unable to draw in any customers, causing an economic downturn. So what does the stimulus package mean for everyone, and how do you know if you qualify for the benefits and relief this package provides?

Under the stimulus package, individuals who are earning $75,000 or less in adjusted gross income will receive a check for $1,200 while married couples earning up to $150,000 would receive a check for $2400 – and an additional $500 per child in their household. If an individual makes more than $99,000 or if a couple makes more than $198,000 combined, they may not be eligible to receive a stimulus check. 

The bill also provides assistance to those who are currently unemployed by giving jobless workers an additional $600 a week for four months, on top of their state benefits. The new deal also calls for a new pandemic unemployment assistance program to provide assistance to those who are unemployed, partially employed, or for those who are unable to work due to the virus outbreak. This will include independent contractors and the self-employed who don’t typically qualify for this type of assistance.

The stimulus package will not only include provisions to assist people who have lost their jobs due to the outbreak, but also bail out large corporations that have been negatively impacted by the economic downfall. The bill will also support small businesses that face an existential threat due to measures taken to counter the virus outbreak. There are many new developments expected to be announced within the coming days, so make sure to monitor for updates on how the stimulus package can affect you. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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How to make a payment to the IRS

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • Taxpayers can pay the IRS directly via their savings or checking account.
  • The IRS allows taxpayers to use their debit or credit cards to make online payments. 
  • If a taxpayer is unable to pay back their tax debt, they can negotiate a payment plan with the IRS. 

If you owe the IRS, or know that you will owe after filing your taxes, you need to be aware of the options for paying back the IRS to avoid falling into collections. The IRS provides several payment options where a taxpayer can either pay the IRS right away or make arrangements to be on a monthly payment plan. 

Here are a few ways you can make payment to the IRS:

  • Pay in full from checking or savings accounts. Taxpayers have the ability to pay their tax bills in full by directly using their checking or savings account and paying online on the IRS website. You can schedule up to 30 days in advance and can cancel your payment or switch your method of payment up to two business days before your payment is taken out. 
  • Use credit or debit cards. The IRS allows taxpayers to use their debit or credit cards to make payments either online or over the phone. The IRS does not charge any hidden fees, although the convenience fees may vary depending on the type of credit card that is used. 
  • Setting up an installment agreement. If a taxpayer is unable to pay back their tax liability to the IRS, the IRS will provide the option of a monthly payment plan so they can make controlled, manageable payments until their tax debt has been satisfied. Taxpayers are required to file all required tax returns before negotiating an agreement. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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How to Avoid Tax Fraud During Tax Season

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • Tax Season leaves many taxpayers vulnerable to identity theft and scammers.
  • Scammers can pose as tax preparers and steal your personal information. 
  • Protect your social security and bank information to ensure it does not end up in the wrong hands. 
  • Ask your tax preparer how you can avoid your personal information getting leaked if there is a data breach. 

Most people don’t realize how vulnerable they are to fraud during tax season.  The scary truth is that during this time of year, many identities are stolen and fraudulent tax returns are unwittingly filed on behalf of a taxpayer. In order to protect yourself, it is vital to exercise caution and provide only the documents and information that are absolutely necessary. Below are a few scams to be aware of during tax time to help avoid becoming a fraudster’s next victim.

Phone and Email Scams

The most obvious way to protect yourself against scammers is to never give out your personal information to someone you don’t know, especially over the phone. If someone from the “IRS” is attempting to contact you over the phone or by email and asks for your social security or card information, don’t give it to them. The IRS almost never contacts via phone, instead preferring to send notices via mail.  Even if you do receive a call from the IRS, they won’t ask for your social security number – they already have that information.  If you feel uncomfortable about the validity of a call, hang up and call the IRS yourself – that way you know if what they’re telling you is true.

Accountant fraud

Be wary of scammers who will pose as a tax preparer and then rip off customers through refund fraud or identity theft. These phony accountants will tell you that they can get you a large tax refund and typically prey on low-income and non-English speaking taxpayers. 

Even if you go to a legitimate tax preparer, your information can still be exposed if there is a data breach. To avoid this happening – and being left vulnerable – ask your tax preparer what more you can do to protect your information in case of a breach.

Identity theft

Make sure to protect your social security number at all costs. Identity thieves will attempt to steal this information in order to steal not only your identity but your tax refund too. As long as you notify the IRS that your information has been compromised and your refund has been stolen, the IRS will work with you to provide your refund. However, it will take extensive time and paperwork to prove that your information was stolen.

Tax Season is now upon us, and it’s important to protect your personal information and ensure that it can’t be compromised. Always be wary of phone calls or emails that you receive claiming to be from the IRS, especially when they’re asking for your bank information or social security number. Also, do your research when looking for a tax preparer to file your taxes for you, and make sure they have their license, as well as positive reviews from previous clients. Lastly, make sure to monitor your social security number to ensure that your data has not been breached and your identity hasn’t been stolen. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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Do You Qualify for the Child Care Credit?

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

Raising children can lead to unexpected expenses that seem to come out of nowhere. As a parent, you may be wondering what tax benefits are available when you file your tax return. You may just find you qualify for the Child Tax Credit.  This tax credit was put into place not just to help taxpayers get the most out of their tax refund, but to also supply some relief for amongst all the expenses that pile up from having children. 

Since the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), parents can now take advantage of the perks that come with the TCJA for child care expenses – this also includes adult kids that are still living under your household. 

If you’re not expecting a refund this year, the Child Tax Credit can help reduce a possible tax liability that you may owe, with a savings of up to $2,000 per child.  Even if you’re expecting a refund, you could still receive up to $1,400 back on your return. The Child Tax Credit is considered one of the most valuable credits to apply when filing your taxes. 

Some of the criteria you would need to meet in order to qualify for the Child Care Credit is:

  • Your child needs to be a U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Children must be 16 years or younger 
  • The taxpayer’s child must be claimed on their tax return.
  • The child should have lived with you for more than half the year

Make sure that you take advantage of the Child Tax Credit this tax season in order to get the most out of your refund or help reduce your tax bill. Remember that there are a few qualifying factors to consider before utilizing the Child Tax Credit: age, relationship, support, dependent status, citizenship, length of residency as well as family income. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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Should Taxpayers Consider Using Direct Deposit for Tax Refunds?

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • If you’re looking to receive a tax refund this season and want it expedited, consider direct deposit.
  • It’s completely free to request direct deposit on your tax return
  • You’ll receive your refund through your bank instead of via check
  • It costs the IRS more to cut a check compared to transferring the money directly to your bank account. 

It’s tax time and everyone is scrambling to get their last-minute tax appointments scheduled before the deadline. If you’re expecting a refund this year, choosing the direct deposit option may be the more viable choice. Let’s explore the benefits:

It doesn’t cost you anything 

Whether you have a tax preparer file for you or you’re filing your tax return yourself, adding your bank information is free to include on your tax return. 

Get your refund faster

When you e-file with your direct debit information on your tax return, you’ll receive your refund much quicker compared to mailing off the return and having the IRS process it.

It’s secure

Using direct deposit information prevents the risk of having a paper check lost or stolen since the funds will be transferred directly to your bank.

You don’t have to e-file

If you prefer to mail out your tax return instead of e-filing, don’t worry, you’re still able to include your direct deposit information and receive your refund through your requested bank of choice.

It will save you money

It costs the IRS more than $1 for every paper refund check issued, but only a dime for each direct deposit made.

Tax season is a busy enough time to get through without having to worry about how you’re going to receive your refund or when it’s going to come. Having your refund deposited directly into your bank account is the ideal way to receive your money because it’s secure, quick, free, and saves taxpayers money. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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Top 3 Apps that will Help You Stay on the Right Financial Path for 2020

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • There are apps that will help support your financial goals and monitor both your spending and savings.
  • Mint is a budgeting tool that monitors and categorizes and updates any transactions that you may make.
  • Pocket Guard is another budgeting app that allows the user to connect to their bank accounts, which enables the app to track recurring expenses as well as everyday expenses.
  • YNAB teaches you how to manage your money and shows you where you are spending your money. 

For those that made the New Year’s resolution to create a financial goal and maintain it throughout the year, you may be starting to get to the point where it’s challenging to keep it up – especially if you find yourself falling back into old patterns.   You may start to be tempted to spend your money on frivolous items or to go out and splurge on drinks and restaurants. There is still time to correct these habits and get back on track. Luckily, there are apps that will help support your financial goals and monitor both your spending and savings.

Mint is a budgeting tool that monitors, categorizes and updates all your transactions. It also provides you information on how you’re spending your money. Users are able to create and set budgets and will be notified if they go over their budget. The app also provides free credit score updates and monitoring.

Pocket Guard is also a budgeting app. It allows the user to connect their bank accounts, which enables the app to track recurring expenses as well as everyday expenses. This app also tracks any deposits that are made into your account. Pocket Guard will analyze your recurring expenses and see if there is a better deal out there for you which could allow you to save money with each purchase.

YNAB teaches you how to manage your money and shows you how you spend your money. This app provides detailed reports that reflect your spending habits on a month-to-month basis, as well as how to correct the areas in which you’re spending too much. 

Whether you’re looking to create a budget or save more money in the long run, each of these apps will help you do so as well as maintain your new year’s goal. There are plenty of financial apps out there to help get you back on track and testing a few out would help you find what works best for you. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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10 Travel Hacks when You’re on a Budget

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • There are ways to travel and go on vacation without having to go broke. 
  • If you’re looking to travel but don’t want to spend the high prices, consider planning around off-peak travel times. 
  • Find a hotel that has additional amenities, saving you more money in the long run.
  • Staying at a hostel is probably one of the most cost-effective ways to travel. 
  • Try doing some sightseeing and look for iconic landscapes that you can’t find back home. 

As the season gets warmer, and with summer looming just around the corner, it’s time to start planning on where you want to go on vacation – and, inevitably, spend more money than usual. Typically, flight costs go up as the temperature does and hotels start to upcharge a bit more than they usually do. So what do you do if you’re on a budget but still want to vacation? Believe it or not, there are ways to travel and go on vacation without having to go broke. 

1. Plan Around Travel Time

Certain times of the year can cause flight and hotel prices to go up because of the surge in tourists that are visiting their location. If you’re looking to travel but don’t want to spend the high prices, consider planning around off-peak travel times. 

If you’re looking to get more bang for your buck, start looking at countries that fit into your budget based on the price of their merchandise and how affordable the country is overall.

2. Check to see if your hotel offers free breakfast

Traveling can become expensive very quickly.  If you’re looking to take a more economical route, consider looking for a hotel that serves their guests’ breakfast. Some hotels provide a few morning snacks while others have a full continental breakfast served to guests every morning. In the end, it might benefit you to find a hotel that has additional amenities, saving you more money in the long run.

3. Hostels may be the cheaper option

Staying at a hostel is probably one of the most cost-effective ways to travel. Not only are you getting the lowest price compared to hotels or rentals, but you’ll also be able to have the opportunity to connect with many other travelers from all around the world. No matter where you travel to, there is usually a hostel that can accommodate you.

4. Explore the town

Believe it or not, the best experiences are typically free. Try doing some sightseeing, like looking for iconic landscapes that you can’t find back home. You could also try looking for hiking trails that may lead to hidden treasures or views you never dreamed of. 

If you’re planning to travel, try to get the most out of your experience without having to hurt your wallet. Always make sure that you compare prices against other hotels and prepare an itinerary ahead of time to project what possible costs you may have to incur. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can still have an enjoyable trip without breaking the bank.

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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What to Do If You Work Abroad and Owe the IRS

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

  • Working abroad doesn’t excuse citizens from paying their taxes, in fact, they are still held to the same standard as those working within the U.S. too.
  • For those working abroad, tax filing will begin on January 27th and are provided a two month extension-until June 15th-to file their tax return.
  • U.S. citizens have the choice to either mail their tax return or e-file as long as it is before the tax deadline. 

Working abroad can be an exciting adventure.  For starters, you get to experience different cultures, meet new people, and eat foods you’ve never even heard of before. It can be easy to immerse yourself in a new country and forget all the responsibilities that you had back at home. While this can be a welcome development for many, one responsibility you should try not to skirt is your taxes.  Even when you’re working abroad, you are still bound to the same tax laws, and you will need to report your income and file your tax return when you’re living in another country. If you’re an American citizen that is working abroad or are even just considering doing so, it is important to know when you should file, where you can file, and if you are able to file online.

When you should file

If you’re a U.S. citizen, resident alien, or you are in the military on duty outside of the U.S. that is working abroad, you are still obligated to file your tax return by April 15th. The only difference between someone working abroad versus someone that resides in the U.S. is that the person working abroad is provided an automatic two-month extension. This means those working outside of the U.S. are given until June 15th to prepare and file their tax return. It should also be noted that taxpayers are still required to pay any tax balance they have by April 15th or they will be charged interest.

Where to file

Working abroad can cause some confusion about how and where you are able to file your tax return. If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident alien; this includes a green card holder, you can mail your U.S. tax return to:

Department of the Treasury

Internal Revenue Service Center

Austin, TX 73301-0215 USA

Can you e-file?

Taxpayers that have their adjusted gross income of $69,000 or less have the ability to electronically file their tax returns for free. If taxpayers have a greater adjusted gross income greater than the specified threshold, they can use the Free File Fillable Forms, the e-file by purchasing commercial software, or the Authorized IRS e-file Provider Locator Service.

If you’re a U.S. citizen looking to work abroad, it is important to know your tax duties and obligations you will still have, regardless of whether you’re working and residing elsewhere. Make sure to mark your calendar for tax filing season every year so you remember to file your tax return. It is also critical to know what your options are when it comes to filing your tax returns and what software you are able to utilize. 

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

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Don’t Break the Bank this Valentine’s Day

  • With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it can become expensive to plan out activities for the holiday.
  • If you’re looking to save money, consider making dinner at home using fresh and/or seasonal ingredients.
  • Making a homemade gift is another alternative to purchasing roses or jewelry. Writing a love letter or creating something unique for your loved one might just be the extra effort to show that you care.
  • Preparing in advance for Valentine’s Day will allow you to splurge more without having to put a dent in your wallet. Make plans ahead of time to know how much you will need to save.

If you haven’t planned anything for Valentine’s Day yet and you’re on a budget, don’t start to panic just yet, as there are alternative options to make this Valentine’s Day memorable without having to break the bank. Most people associate this romantic holiday with dining out or giving extravagant presents as a declaration of one’s love, but don’t worry: there are still ways to show your love for your significant other while still staying on a budget. 

Romantic Dinner at home

If it slipped your mind and you forgot to make a reservation, or if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to spend additional cash for a fancy restaurant, don’t worry!  You can still have a delicious and romantic dinner without having to be concerned about how much the bill is coming out to. Making a home-cooked meal can be just as extravagant as a dinner at a fancy restaurant without having to shell out the same amount of cash. You can also check your local grocery stores to see what type of promotions or deals they’re having on their produce; more often than not, there’s a sale on some fresh, fancy foods. You can also stick to purchasing in-season vegetables and fruit as they are typically much cheaper than foods that are out of season. 

Homemade gifts

The cost of buying a Valentine’s gift can add up very quickly, especially if you’re buying multiple gifts. The price only goes up if you’re considering buying chocolates or flowers to go with it!  Although everyone loves to receive pricey gifts every once in a while, it isn’t necessary to actually spend the money on something that is already overpriced. Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones that you put the most thought and care into. Writing a letter or creating something by hand shows that you’ve taken the time to create something special and unique, and often can mean more to your significant other than something much more expensive.

Saving ahead of time

If you’re looking to splurge this upcoming holiday, start planning in advance how much you want to spend and what fits into your budget. Once you have an idea, you can start saving ahead of time to ensure that you won’t be caught off guard with any additional expenses. Just make sure that you have enough time to plan ahead and save extra cash, as restaurants typically start getting booked up the week before Valentine’s Day.

Whether you’re looking to save money this upcoming holiday or have a budget, it’s always a good idea to see what you can do to make the most out of Valentine’s day for you and your special someone. Valentine’s Day is about showing someone how much you care about them, there are many ways that you can do this without having to splurge. 

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

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