Florida Master Money Mentor Training

Hillsborough County Extension is offering training to those interested in becoming a Florida Master Money Mentor volunteer. The program is an opportunity for participants to learn more about personal finance and then share that knowledge with others.

The four-week training is scheduled July 13, 20, 27 and August 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the County Extension office, 5339 County Road 579 in Seffner. Participants must attend all four classes and complete some at-home study. Registration cost is $16.00 and the deadline is July 5.

No previous financial education or background in financial services is required to be a Florida Master Money Mentor. Training topics include effective communication strategies, analyzing decisions about finances, cash flow management, credit, debt management, and saving and investing for future goals.

Mentors are asked to commit to volunteering at least three hours per week, and follow guidelines in regards to reporting, client confidentiality, and providing research-based unbiased information.

Individuals who promote, sell, or endorse financial products or services are not eligible to be volunteers. But they can attend the training to increase their personal finance knowledge.

Register online at https://2017fmmm.eventbrite.com . Seating is limited so register early to reserve a spot.

For more information, contact Lisa Leslie, Hillsborough County Extension Services at (813) 744-5519 ext. 54143 or lesliel@hillsboroughcounty.org

 

The University of Florida Extension provides the infrastructure for this program throughout the state of Florida, thanks to a gift from Bank of America.

 

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April 18 Tax Filing Deadline & Filing for an Extension

The tax filing deadline this year is April 18.

If a tax filer is owed a refund, they have up to 3 years to file and get that refund back. Free software will be available until October 16, 2017 for filers with an adjusted gross income of $64,000 or less.  AGI does not include money contributed to tax deductible retirement plans or certain other adjustments. Your 2015 AGI can be found on line 37 of your Form 1040 tax return.

For free file software options visit www.irs.gov and click the “freefile” link.

If you are getting a refund there is no need to file for an extension.

Filing an Extension

If a taxpayer owes money & doesn’t file & pay on time there are penalty fees. Two fees to be aware of are the late payment fee and the filing after the deadline fee.

Late payment fee: Late payment penalty is usually ½ of 1% of any tax not paid by deadline. It is charged for each month or part of a month the tax is unpaid.  Maximum 25%.  You can avoid this penalty if you pay at least 90% of amount owed by deadline (this gives you an extension) and then pay the rest by the extension deadline – October 16, 2017.

Filing Late: Failure to file penalty aka penalty for filing after the deadline is usually 5% of the amount due for each month or part of month your return is late. Maximum penalty is 25%. After 60 days the minimum penalty is $205 or the balance on the return whichever is smaller.

Eliminate or Reduce Fess

If you can pay some or all of your tax liability go to https://www.irs.gov/payments and find out about payment options. They include paying electronically (no fees), installment plans, or paying by credit card.

If you cannot pay any of the amount owed, you can still request to extend the deadline to Oct 16, 2017.  You can either use free file software or complete Form 4868. More information is available at https://www.irs.gov/filing/extension-of-time-to-file-your-tax-return  Filing an extension will eliminate the failure to file penalty, but not necessarily the late payment fees.

Credit for Your Retirement Savings Contributions

You may be eligible for a tax credit if you make contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

A tax credit directly reduces the amount of federal income tax that you are required to pay. Example: Federal income tax liability is $600 and you’re eligible for a $200 Savers Credit. Your tax liability is decreased to $400. In this example you could receive a $200 boost in your refund or a $200 deduction in the amount you need to pay when you file your tax return.

Savers Credit Eligibility Requirements
You are eligible for the credit if you’re age 18 or older, not a full-time student, not claimed as someone’s dependent, and within the income limits.

2017 Income Limits:
-Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er), with income up to $31,000.

-Head of Household with income up to $46,500.

– Married Filing Jointly, with incomes up to $62,000.

The amount of the credit is 50%, 20% or 10% of your retirement plan or IRA contributions up to $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly), depending on your adjusted gross income.

Example: Married couple and they file a joint return. Their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) in 2017 is $55,000. (AGI is less than taxable income and is on the last line of page 1 of your 1040 tax return form).  If they contribute $1,000 to an IRA, the government will give them a $100 credit.

For more information about income limits and credit amounts visit https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-savings-contributions-savers-credit

Upcoming Personal Webinars: Live, Interactive, Online Classes

Hillsborough County Extension invites you to participate in these online personal finance classes. Register using the links below. All are free.

Time for all is 12:00pm – 1:00pm EST.

What: Managing Student Loan Debt
When: Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017
Description: We will discuss and compare payment options, demonstrate tools to estimate payments, and provide information about Public Loan Forgiveness.
Registration: https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/7731321942216785153

What: Saving is a Family Affair Webinar
When: Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST
Description: Whether you are single, married, married with children, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle – saving for the future is important. We will discuss how everyone in the family can make and contribute to financial goals such as education, independent living, or other future goals.
Registration: https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/740292763007453953

This webinar is presented by University of Florida/IFAS Extension in partnership with Hillsborough County Extension and Seminole County Extension. This webinar is a partnership of the Tampa Bay Saves and Florida Saves campaigns.

What: Spring Clean Your Finances
When: Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Description: Discussion will include essential documents, how to long to keep, consolidating accounts, reducing fees and organizing financial papers.
Registration: https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/8852520339064265217

Share Your Savings Goals and a Chance to Win $1,000 in the # IMSavingFor Contest

For many years, University of Florida Extension has partnered with Consumer Federation of America in the America Saves Initiative. The goal is to motivate residents to take small steps to increase their financial stability by increasing their savings or decreasing their debt.

To celebrate the upcoming America Saves Week (Feb. 27-March 4, 2017), America Saves is launching the #ImSavingFor contest. It’s easy to enter. Just share a short video of your savings story, or a picture of you and what you are saving for and enter to win $1,000 at americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor.

How to enter:

  • Create a short video featuring your savings story by answering at least one of these questions: What are you saving for? What is your savings story and how can it help other people? What is your favorite savings tip or trick?
  • Or take picture illustrating your savings goal
  • Enter to win at americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor
  • Share your video or photo on social media with the hashtag #ImSavingFor

Get creative!

  • Keep it simple by taking a video or picture in front of the item your savings for – like a new car or house
  • Use a video or photo editing tool to put yourself in the frame with your goal – like a trip to the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore
  • Use an app to add a caption or some character to your submission

Bonus chances to win:
You can only enter once per person, but you can get an extra three entries by taking the next step in saving and completing the America Saves Pledge to create a simple savings plan. After entering, look for an email with your bonus opportunity information.

The contest runs from February 1 – April 7, 2017. America Saves will pick one entry at random on March 10 and contact them by email. Click here for the full official rules.

It’s Tax Time! Will Itemizing Save You Money?

Tax filing time is just around the corner, and most of us are probably either well on our way to filing our returns or at least starting to think about it. At this time of year, many people start to wonder what they can do to make sure they aren’t paying more taxes than they actually owe.

A tax deduction reduces your taxable income, meaning you owe less. For example, if your income is $50,000, but you have tax deductions of $5,000, then your taxable income is reduced to $45,000.

How much this deduction will save you will depend on your tax rate. Your tax rate (also known as your tax bracket) is the maximum tax rate that the highest portion of your income is charged. To use a general example, a person in the 25% tax bracket with a $1,000 deduction might save $250 in taxes.

When we file taxes, the government allows filers to choose between taking the “standard deduction” and itemizing deductions. You cannot do both. So the first thing all taxpayers need to do is find out what the “standard deduction” amount is for them.

The standard deduction for filing taxes is based on filing status. The amount is set each year by the federal government. For the 2016 tax year, the standard deductions are:

  • Single or Married Filing Separately* – $6,300
  • Married Filing Jointly – $12,600
  • Head of Household – $9,300
  • If you are 65 or older or blind, the standard deduction is increased.

*When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction, and therefore must itemize to claim his or her deductions.

Next, check to see what you could deduct if you went the “itemized deductions” route, and add up these deductions. Now, compare the two totals to see which amount is larger. If the standard deduction is larger, it is likely that the standard deduction is the way to go. But if itemizing deductions adds up to a larger total, then you may be better off itemizing deductions.  For more information, refer to this helpful link from the IRS: Should I Itemize? (http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc501.html)

What Can I Itemize?

Some examples of expenses that can be itemized include mortgage interest, taxes paid, charitable contributions, casualty and theft losses, unreimbursed job expenses, and medical expenses. Charitable contributions are donations to qualified non-profit organizations. It is called itemizing because the items mentioned have to be listed (itemized) on a form called a Schedule A.  If you want to get an idea of exactly what you can itemize, download a Schedule A form (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sa.pdf) from the IRS.

For many homeowners, the first thing to check is mortgage interest. If the amount of mortgage interest that you paid is greater than or close to your standard deduction, then it is likely that it will be to your advantage to itemize deductions.

Qualified medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income may be itemized. For example if your adjusted gross income is $50,000 and your qualified unreimbursed medical expenses are $5,100, then you can deduct $100. If you are over 65, they only need to be more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. In order for a medical expense to be deductible, you must have paid for it yourself. For example, health insurance premiums you pay out of pocket count. However, if your employer pays your health insurance premiums, you cannot deduct them.

Job expenses are listed under a category that includes other miscellaneous expenses, such as tax preparation fees and safe deposit box expenses. In order for them to be deductible, the total for this category must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income.

Alternative Minimum Tax and Deductions

Individuals with a higher income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The AMT is a parallel tax system that applies to taxpayers who have certain types of income that receive favorable treatment, or who qualify for certain deductions under tax law. The AMT sets a limit on how much these benefits can be used to reduce total taxes paid. Every taxpayer is responsible for paying either the regular tax or the minimum tax, whichever is higher. The Internal Revenue Service has an online calculator to help you figure out if you are subject to the alternative minimum tax. For more information, take a look at the AMT Assistant for Individuals.

It is important to understand your options when deciding whether or not to itemize on your return. Knowing your standard deduction and how it compares to your itemized deductions can save you money and time.  For more information, check out the IRS website at www.irs.gov. The Interactive Tax Assistant at that site can also be very helpful.

2017 Free Tax Preparation Resources

There are a variety of options and resources to make completing your tax return easy and inexpensive. Check these options out and spread the word.

MyFreeTaxes: Use an online program funded by United Way and developed by H&R Block. It’s free to filers with Adjusted Gross Incomes (AGI) of $64,000 or less.

AGI does not include money contributed to tax deductible retirement plans or certain other adjustments. Your 2016 AGI can be found on line 37 of your Form 1040 tax return.

For more information or to get started filing go to www.MyFreeTaxes.com

Would you like guided assistance using this software and you live in Hillsborough County Florida?
Make an appointment at the Hillsborough County Extension Office. IRS certified volunteers will provide 1-1 assistance starting February 7, 2017. Returns can be e-filed or printed and mailed. You can even start your return here and finish up at home. For information about appointments visit our web site http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu/#news5

Free File: In addition to H&R Block, many tax preparation vendors will be partnering with the IRS to provide free online tax preparation programs. These services will be available starting January 13. To find out more go to the IRS web site www.irs.gov  and click on the free file link.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Sites: IRS certified VITA volunteers
will do the return for you. The income limit for these sites is generally $54,000, but some sites are flexible.

Find a VITA site at https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide: AARP will also have free tax sites throughout the community. Their target audience is low-moderate income residents and they especially want to help folks age 60 or older. Their sites open in late January and early February. Information can be found at http://www.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action

IRS Interactive Assistant: This tool is available at the IRS website. It provides customized answers to your questions about dependents, deductions, credits, filing status & much more.

https://www.irs.gov/uac/Interactive-Tax-Assistant-(ITA)-1