Category Archives for "Taxes"

Time To Prepare Your Income Taxes

I won’t go nuts (THIS TIME!) on why I hate our tax system, but I will say this:

If you don’t file your income tax returns, the government will find you!

So, do them.

But don’t pay H&R Block or an accountant to do them! Unless you’re Warren Buffett or own rental properties, there is really nothing you cannot handle. While our tax code is exasperatingly ridiculous, TurboTax walks you through the mess and delivers a complete, accurate, and relatively painless method for filing.

This year, they even include free e-file with the Deluxe version.

The most critical part of doing your taxes is getting all your records in order. Once that’s done, it’s as simple as following the guided questions that TurboTax provides.

Here’s what you do to get TurboTax:

Then, launch it and answer the questions as TurboTax presents them.

As you might imagine, I don’t really like buying packaged software – it costs more money (usually) and it costs time for delivery. Plus, it wastes a lot of paper, ink, gas, etc. Digital downloads are the only way to fly!

BUT, make a backup of the installation program onto CD or DVD and store it away, along with any serial numbers you get. A practice I like to follow is to burn any supporting material (like serial #s) onto the “backup disc” and also label the disk with the title and serial #.

I’ve been burned a few times by not doing this and it takes me a while to recover the serial #s, etc. No fun.

Here’s to a successful tax return completion!

End of Year Predictions from Money Hacks

My partners over at The Finance Blog Network have begun a new group writing project where we’ve been asked to make our end of year predictions related to personal finance.

There are two topics that immediately come to my mind: The financial crisis and the presidential election.

First, the easy one. The financial fubar we’re in will worsen as the year ends, compounding with a further reduction in the global stock and bond markets. As time goes on, and the few remaining big banks experience their own pain, stocks will shrink, sending the Dow down near 6,000 (yeah, you read that right) and sending bonds down with it. After all, who wants to own corporate bonds? The only “safe haven” will be Treasuries and they’ll pay next to nothing, if anything at all.

Sectors that will stay strong (i.e., won’t fall as far as fast) are staple industries, like food and beverage companies (e.g., Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and McCormicks, to name three).

There will be more bank failures, worse in Europe than in the United States, though the failures here will occur (but they may be quiet); we’ll call them “mergers.” I don’t think there will be many bank runs, but there will be some.

Inflation will stay in check, but it won’t feel like it because food prices and the seasonal upswing in energy prices will happen, just like they do every winter. Unemployment will rise to a nationwide 8- to 9 percent. This could get really ugly.

(It’s a good thing I’m independently wealthy.)
(What? I’m not? Oh, crap!!!)

The dollar will appreciate relative to the Euro, not because the US economy improves, but because Europe’s economy will decline relative to ours.

The US presidential election won’t matter. Really. Obama brings hope to roughly half the population. McCain brings Palin. Either way, we’ll feel better about things for a while.

I think Obama will win, but I’ve been wrong many times on these sorts of things. I thought Kerry would trounce Bush. That’s my most recent failure in picking these things. So maybe I’m due for a winning bet.

Either way, we won’t get that big tax cut both parties have promised. Nor will we get health care relief, war relief, or better corporate governance.

America is a huge ship, not easily righted. It cannot turn on a dime, nor can it be started quickly if stalled. We’ll — at best — muddle through. At worst, we’ll re-live the 1930s.

On this one, I hope I’m wrong.

Money isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. Wait. That’s only for football.
Enjoy life. Spend time with your family.