Wittman: End of year good time to work on financesby Romi Carrell Wittman on Dec. 29, 2008, under Edge
If all the prognosticators are right, this economic downturn could last a very long time. That means planning for your financial future is more important than ever.
The end of the year always gets me to thinking about getting my financial house in order. It’s a good time to pull those receipts together, get your pay stubs out and start thinking about filing your taxes, too. And, while you’re at it, you’ll probably want to re-examine your tax withholding, your 401(k) and/or IRA contributions, as well as any charitable giving.
If you’re anticipating a big, fat refund from Uncle Sam, you’re paying too much in taxes. While some people count on this as a kind of forced savings program, I look at it more as an interest-free loan to the government. My goal is to come within a couple of hundred bucks, give or take, on both my federal and state taxes.
You can figure out where you stand by using the Internal Revenue Service’s handy online calculator at www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96196,00.html. You’ll need to have your pay stubs (and your spouse’s) as well as the number of times you’re paid each year.
If, after completing the calculator, you find yourself in the “give” part of the equation – that is, you’re going to owe on your taxes, there are a few strategies you can take to minimize the hit next April.
First, get organized. You need an accurate assessment of your expenses to take advantage of all qualified deductions available to you. This includes documentation of stock losses as well as capital gains. Investors may want to consider selling holdings that have lost value since they can claim up to $3,000 in losses on their taxes.
Also, carefully review all out-of-pocket medical expenses as these can be deducted if qualified expenses reached 7.5 percent of one’s income.
If you’re able to, consider prepaying things such as your mortgage, tuition fees or taxes. These all translate to deductions on your 2008 taxes if they are paid by Dec. 31.
Charitable giving is another step you can take. Any check written or item donated before Dec. 31 can be deducted. If you can’t think of a worthy school or charity to donate to, visit www.give.org or www.charitynavigator.org to find a reputable charity whose cause you support. Go to Forbes at www.forbes.com/feeds/a
2008/11/21/ap5728888.html for more end-of-year tax tips and advice.
Romi Carrell Wittman is a business writer and the communication services director for Trico Electric Cooperative. E-mail her at: romi.wittman@ comcast.net.