Taxes 
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How to Check Your Tax Return Status

Last year, the average tax refund was over three thousand dollars. Since the tax brackets were extended an additional two year and many of the same deductions and credits along with it, we have every reason to believe that people will still be getting sizable refund checks (let’s be honest, despite all the “adjust your withholding” articles, very few people optimize this for fear of messing up).

So, if you’ve filed your return already and are anxious to get that check (or even better, see the direct deposit hit your account), the IRS has provided a few ways for you to check your tax refund. The easiest way is to go to the IRS website and use their Where’s My Refund tool. You’ll need your social security number, your filing status, the exact whole dollar amount of your refund, as calculated when you prepared your return. You’ll also need to give them 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges the receipt of your return and, if you filed a paper return, you’ll need to extend that to three to four weeks.

If you’re an iPhone app addict, you can always download the IRS2Go which puts the same functionality in a nice iPhone application. I think it’s better to use the IRS website directly, since the app doesn’t seem to have much more utility beyond checking your return, but it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference (neither is more or less secure).


 Taxes 
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Watch Out for these Expired Tax Breaks

ExpiredDuring the last two years, many of us have become accustomed to a number of tax breaks that were instituted to help during a time of economic difficulty. However, these tax breaks were never meant to last forever — and they haven’t. Tax breaks that you might have been counting on are disappearing, and you might be in trouble.

In some cases, the disappearing tax breaks are a bit of a nuisance. In other cases (especially for those who should have taken a required minimum distribution on an IRA in 2010), though, the absence of a tax break you have come to rely on might be a little more difficult to deal with financially. As you file your taxes, here are some things to be aware of with regard to a reduction in tax breaks.

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 Taxes 
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What is the Tax Form 1040?

Form 1040Welcome to the inaugural post in our Tax Form series, a new, somewhat dry, tax series in which we take a look at all the various tax forms the IRS uses. I know it sometimes isn’t the most exciting of topics but understanding the various tax forms is absolutely crucial if you want to do your taxes. Many of you will probably be filing electronically, so software will help you decide which forms to use and how to fill it out, but there are still a few hold-outs out there who insist on filing by paper.

If you are one of them, then this new series is designed for you! (cue applause!)

The Tax Form 1040 is the cornerstone of your tax return. There are two alternatives in the Form 1040A and the Form 1040EZ, which are available to a subset of taxpayers, but the Form 1040 is the long form that many people think of when you talk about your federal personal income tax return. Form 1040A is basically Form 1040-Lite and Form 1040EZ is Form 1040-SuperLite.

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 Taxes 
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How to File Your Taxes for Free

e-File is gaining in popularity as the Internet becomes the place to go for taking care of money matters. Not only is e-file convenient, but it also provides you with a method of getting your tax refund faster (if you are entitled to one). Many tax professionals offer e-file services when you go in. And, if you meet certain requirements, you might be able to have your taxes e-filed for free.

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 Taxes 
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Married Filing Jointly & Married Filing Separately (Filing Status)

This is part two of our filing status series (it’s really just two articles) and in this part we’ll take a look at the two married filing statuses – married filing jointly and married filing separately. As we mentioned earlier today, you filing status as of December 31st will basically determine which filing statuses you’ll be able to choose from. If you’re married, and not “considered unmarried,” your two options will be to file as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately.

I documented the key differences between married filing separately and married filing jointly in the past, based on 2008 tax brackets data, but the same analysis holds true with the updated IRS tax rates.

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 Taxes 
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Single & Head of Household (Filing Status)

Today we’re going to discuss the four major filing statuses of your tax return – single, head of household, married filing jointly and married filing separately. If you’ve ever filled out your tax return, chances are you’ve had to decide which of these four applied to you. The decision really is between single vs. head of household or married filing jointly vs. married filing separately. A married couple, in general, will not file as a head of household and unmarried individuals cannot file jointly or separately as there is no one to file with!

This post will cover the decision process for picking single or head of household with a post covering married filing jointly vs. married filing separately to come in the afternoon.

Here’s one important protip about marital status and taxes: Your marital status on the last day of the year (December 31st) determines your marital status for the entire year. This is true for a lot of “status” related items – if your child is born on December 31st, they can be claimed on that year’s return. If you are unmarried, you have the option of picking single or head of household. If you are married, you must pick either married filing jointly or married filing separately.

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 Taxes 
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2010 Taxes Due on April 18th

You know how the tax deadline is usually April 15th? Well, the IRS adjusts the date, they are required by tax law, if it falls on a holiday or on a weekend. This year, the folks in Washington D.C. will be celebrating Emancipation Day on Friday, April 15th. Normally the date is April 16th, the day in 1862 when President Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, but this year they’re observing it on the 15th.

What does that mean for you and me? Taxes won’t be due until April 18th, that following Monday. If you are due a tax refund, I’d file as soon as possible so you can get your own money back. If you owe taxes, I’d wait until the 18th. :)


 Taxes 
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Estate Tax

The estate tax has gotten a lot of press this year because, well, it doesn’t exist this year and Congress is set to discuss what they want to do with it, along with tax rates, in subsequent years.

However, before we get into that, let’s get back to basics – what is the estate tax? The estate tax is a tax imposed on the transfer of an estate. That is, it’s a tax on assets when someone dies and transfers those assets to others. It’s imposed by the federal government and oftentimes by the state government as well, which can refer to it as an estate tax or an inheritance tax. No matter what you call it, or how you feel about it in terms of fairness, it’s a tax that has been collected for years and is a source of revenue to federal and state governments.

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