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Filing Taxes as a Married Couple

Filing taxes can be an extremely difficult task. There are so many rules and regulations that it can make your head spin. Additionally, when you are married and considering how you should file, things can get even more complicated. Discovering if filing together or separately will yield the most benefits is a question which needs to be thoroughly researched. While there is no clean-cut answer and most people opt for filing together due to the tax breaks you can receive, there are some cases where filing separately may actually be of greater benefit to you and your spouse.

1. One of you is self-employed

 

 

The rules for those who are self-employed (freelancing, independent contracting, etc.) are very different from those who are working the more traditional 9-5 job. This is due to the fact that you are not only paying income tax, but you are also responsible for covering your own Social Security and Medicare tax. Since this is not coming out of your paycheck, self-employment tax rates for 2015-2016 were 15.3%.

Because of the differences in what you will have to pay, you are generally expected to make estimated quarterly payments to cover your taxes. If you have not been doing this, or you underestimate how much you will need to pay, this could set you back greatly and result in a large sum being taken from your refund. For those who are self-employed, it is sometimes advisable to file separately from your spouse. While you may lose some tax benefits, in the end, you may have to pay fewer taxes. It is important to weigh both sides in order to see which way you and your spouse will come out better in the long run.

2. You’re struggling With student loan debt

 

 

Debt deriving from paying for college is something which impacts approximately 70% of Americans. It is said the average debt for college graduates is around $30,000. This high number coupled with the difficulty of finding a job these days often presents young adults with many headaches. If you decide to repay your student loans through an income-dependent plan, this can become a little tricky when you are married.

The reason for this derives from the fact that if you and your spouse file together, your joint income will be considered for this type of repayment plan even if only one of you has debt. Therefore, when you file by yourself, only your income is considered in determining the kind of payments for which you qualify. Once again, in the process of filing separately you may lose specific deductions. However, if you do not have kids and take out standard deductions, the pinch will not be as drastic.

3. You have a lot of itemized deductions

 

 

Deductions are a great asset to utilize when doing your taxes as they help to reduce the amount of taxes you will have to pay. However, it is important to note the IRS does have an established limit of how much you can take off based upon your annual income. For this reason, it is important for you and your spouse to examine your deductions to see if separate or joint filing will give you the greater benefits. If you discover you both have numerous deductions you plan to claim, yet there is a substantial gap in what you earn, then filing separately would be the best route.

For example, if in the previous year, you paid a substantial amount of out of pocket medical expenses, you are allowed to deduct any amount which exceeds 10% of your adjusted gross income. If you have only earned around $25,000 within the past year, then you have a good deduction. However, if your spouse makes $150,000 and you decide to file taxes together, you are increasing your income and therefore increasing the 10% bracket. In a case such as this, it is a good idea to consider filing separately, allowing you to increase your deductions and reduce your out of pocket expenses.

In conclusion, these are just a few of the factors which married couples need to consider when filing their taxes. In situations where you are planning to divorce or you are concerned about being liable for your spouse’s tax debt, then it is advisable to file separately. However, in other cases, where the answer is not so clear, it is always a good idea to configure the numbers in order to discover the best way of receiving a good outcome on your taxes.
*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

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7 Real Estate Scams to Watch Out For

Buying and selling a home is a big deal. There are so many things to consider and work out before you can finally close the deal. This process becomes even more complicated when potential or present homeowners realize that if they are not careful, they could become the victims of real estate scams. Although different attackers use different techniques, they all have the same objective: to walk away from the deal with a handsome profit. Whether you are buying a home or need help paying your mortgage, below are several common scams you need to know about.

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1. Timeshare Resale Scams

Oftentimes when owners of a timeshare decide it is time to sell, there are obstacles. Vacation homes can be difficult to sell especially if they are in a location not frequently visited. In the end, most vacation homes sell for a small percentage of what the home was originally worth.

When you become desperate to sell your vacation home, this is the time frauds can step in and take advantage of your situation. Many scammers will con you with promises that they will find the perfect buyer for your home if you are willing to provide a specific fee. In turn, the scammer will disappear, take your money and leave you with no potential buyers or they will tell you they need more money to reimburse what the seller initially lost.

In order to avoid such a situation, make sure to check the background of the person who could potentially sell your timeshare. Additionally, if upfront fees are mentioned, this should be a red flag for a potential scammer.

 

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2. Real Estate Listing Scams

Believe it or not, all the property you see listed may not be for sale. A good scammer can even from time to time allow potential buyers or renters to view a home which is not even available. It is easy for a scammer to put a fraudulent listing up or manipulate real estate advertisement in order add their information. No matter how this scam is formatted, frauds can successfully collect from people who vulnerably fall prey to these scams. Always make sure to be wary of sending money to a real estate or individual whom you have never met face to face.

 

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3. Credit Repair Scams

If you are seriously considering renting or buying, raising your credit score is very important. Such an act can help you receive a better interest rate on your mortgage.  Also, in some cases, a bad credit score could potentially hinder you from being able to successfully rent.

Although you may be desperate to lower a bad credit score, be wary of the scammers who prey upon those in need of credit repair. Often scam artist will try to persuade you to create a new identity or even convince you that you are the victim of identity theft and drastic measures need to be taken in order to remove the black marks from your credit history. Others will even promise to wipe your bad credit clean immediately. When bought into, such scams can result in issues greater than a bad credit score.

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4. Mortgage Relief Scams

For those who worry about meeting their mortgage and fear a foreclosure looms in their future, there are legitimate organizations such as Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) who help struggling homeowners. However creative thieves can take advantage of desperate homeowners.

Scammers looking for people worried about losing their homes often use the line that if you let go of the title to your home and let someone else rent out the house, it will work to your advantage until you can buy your house back. Another scam often used is convincing you that they can talk with your mortgage lender to negotiate a modification to the terms of your loan. Some thieves will even use the line that if you turn over your home while you try to apply for another loan, your chances of avoiding foreclosure are decreased.

As stated before, the best way to avoid such a scam is to ignore anyone asking for an upfront fee and also do your research into their backgrounds.

 

5. Dual Agency

A real estate agent or agency who represents the buyer and the seller can be tricky. In some states this is quite legal and has benefits such as convenience and can even help cut costs. Nevertheless, in some states, dual agency is prohibited and can be considered a scam. Because such an arrangement could cause a conflict of interest, this is often seen as unfavorable. In extreme cases, some dual agencies will even try to profit significantly by representing both sides of the transaction. If you decide to embark on such a relationship with your realtor, proceed with caution.

 

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6. Emails Scams

As we all know email hackers are very common. They hack into accounts all the time and not only inhibit your ability to send emails, but they also send scam emails to your family, friends, and coworkers. The same is true with real estate agents. Often times hackers will access a realtor’s account and email individuals asking them to wire money. While professionals try to avoid such happenings by taking precautionary measures such as frequently changing passwords and avoiding unsecure wi-fi, accidents do happen. If you feel an email you have received is not from a real agent, check the verification of their license and find out as much as you can about their professional records.

 

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7. Identity Theft

Identify theft on a real estate level can take many forms. One form can occur when a thief steals the identify of a homeowner in order to gain access to their title. After this, the thief will attempt to profit off the home or tap into the home’s equity. Additionally, an identity thief can use false documents or someone else’s identity to qualify for a loan.

In order to avoid such a disaster, it is a good idea to check your bank statements, bills, and credit reports regularly. Such a check can help you catch something shady before it goes too far. Also, when working with a real estate agent, always make sure they are taking the necessary precautions to ensure your information is kept private.

 

Although there are many scams out there to which homeowners are susceptible , there are precautions you can take to avoid disasters. By proceeding carefully, and doing thorough research, you can outsmart any scam artist who comes around.

Article provided by smartasset.com. Original article may be located here.

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5 Common Investment Mistakes

When it comes to creating an investment strategy, everyone makes mistakes. Whether your experience in investing is just beginning or you are an old pro, investments can backfire and sometimes cause serious losses. Although all the issues associated with investing cannot be entirely avoided, it is important to have a clear idea of what you should and shouldn’t do with your money before making an investment. Below are five pitfalls which can easily hurt investors:

 

Investing without a Plan:

As with anything else, it is vital to map out a plan before beginning the investment process. Just as you wouldn’t begin a building project without first having a clear idea of the path you will take and the material you will need, you should never invest your money without first mapping out a clear and concise plan. The more you plan now, the easier it will be to have an understanding of where your money is going.

As part of your plan, you should consider your desire for the investment. Having an objective goal in mind for your money, such as retirement or college education for you or your children, gives you a clear objective. It is also important to determine the risk level with which you are comfortable. While some people prefer a conservative route, others desire to invest in something a little more aggressive. This is something you need to decide beforehand as it will help you determine the right investment route for you.

Additionally, it is important to think about and research the types of assets in which you want to invest based upon which ones will help you achieve your desired goals. Each group of assets has a wide diversity; therefore, you need to examine these diversities to ensure you have a good balance of investments. Initial mapping such as this gives you clear and concise goals and can also keep better track of your investments.

 

Making Emotion-based Decisions:

Even though many of our everyday responses and decisions are based upon emotions, allowing this to occur within the realm of investments could be detrimental. Emotions are ever changing and are mainly based upon the information right before us. Therefore, buying or selling based upon a gut-feeling is not advisable. Before investing in a particular asset, it is vital to do research in order to make knowledgeable decisions as to whether it is truly a worth while investment. You should also not allow emotions to determine whether you sell an investment. Although you may be tempted to hold on to an asset that is constantly losing money in hopes that it will turn around, unwillingness to admit you picked a bad investment should never be your reason for staying with something which is failing. Such pride will only result in more loss.

 

Putting your Investment on Auto-Pilot:    

There is no need to watch your investment 24/7; nevertheless, it is important to check it on a regular basis. Monitoring your investments can help better determine if they align with your goals.

 

Following the Crowd:

When it comes to investing there is no one size fits all. Just because a stock is highly recommended by others or has proved successful for a specific crowd, doesn’t mean it is right for you. This is especially true regarding investments you hear about in the financial news or from friends and family. Although it may be worthwhile to check on these investments, it is important to do you own personal research so you can make decisions based upon your findings.

 

Becoming Impatient:

No matter how much or how little you have invested, you want to make your investment grow. For this reason, it may be tempting to change assets regularly based upon how well something is doing presently. However, shifting your assets often does not give your investments a chance to grow. Additionally, just because something appears profitable now, does not mean it will continue on the same path in the future.

 

Successful investing depends a lot on common sense and knowing where potential missteps and pitfalls may occur. Therefore, making careful decisions based upon clear and concise research will help you to avoid many of the mistakes found within the investment realm.

 

Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Article provided by smartasset.com. Original article may be located here.

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4 Car Dealer Tricks You Need to Know Before You Buy a Car

We often hear that car salespeople can be shrewd as they are looking to try and sell you a lemon or trick you into buying something way out of your price range. Although this definition is a little harsh, it is a good idea to keep a level head when walking into a car dealership. After all, they are the only people standing between you and getting your car for the best price. Below are four traps salespeople often use on buyers which can result in you making a huge mistake and paying more than you originally planned.

 

Trick #1 Negotiating on Monthly Payments:

We’ve all heard the wonders of low-monthly payments. How taking such a route will help us to drive away in a brand new luxury automotive for mere hundreds a month. When a dealer begins discussing this payment method, your red flags should go up.

Although a clever dealer can make you focus on the low payments, they are neglecting to tell you about other financial variables. While monthly payments may sound low, dealers may actually be inflating other factors such as interest and the length of a loan. There are even dealers who use what is commonly known as a four-square chart which is extremely difficult to understand. A former car salesman describes this “game” as putting the buyer on the defense and carefully wearing them down with complex math while the salesperson appears to be lowering payment prices.

In order to avoid this trick, there are three counteractive moves you can make. First, avoid talking about monthly payments. When the dealer begins discussing this, inform them that you will talk financing later, but you first want to know their best price. Second, pay cash for your car or secure your own financing. However, do not inform the salesperson of your plans. They will be less likely to give you a good price if they know they are not going to receive a profit from the financing. Third, if you do have to discuss financing, it is better to wait until you have negotiated the sale price. Once you have an idea of the total price you can then focus on the annual percentage rate versus payments.

 

Trick #2 Telling You Your Credit is Bad:

 document-428338_640 pixabayIf you are unsure of your credit score, a car salesperson is at an advantage. They can easily tell you that due to your credit score you are not eligible for a high rate. For example, a bank may tell you that you qualify for a 5% loan; however, a dealer could easily tell you that 7% is the lowest available to you.

To avoid this, know your credit score before you ever step one foot into a dealership. Pull your credit score for free so you are knowledgeable about whether a dealer is being fully honest. Additionally, as stated before, do research into your own financing as it is better to do this independently versus going through a dealership.

 

Trick #3 Baiting and Switching:

 It is easy for a salesperson to appear to be on your side and lower your guard with humor or statements which ensure you they will help you get a discount or a great trade-in rate. But most of these promises are inevitably pushed to the side. Edmund.com’s “Confessions of a Car Salesman” series revealed that rates and numbers given in the initial negotiation are often “forgotten” by the dealership later on.

The information above really makes salespeople sound bad. Although not all salespeople are out to cheat you, there job is to sell you a car, not be your friend. Be cautious not to fall for their games and make sure to get the numbers they gave you in writing that way you have something fall back on if they try to change things. Also, you are not bound to anything at this point and if they neglect to uphold the deal you agreed upon, walk away.

 

Dealer Trick #4: Pushing Add-Ons and Fees:

 contract-587249_640 pixabayWhen negotiating for a car, make sure to watch out for additional add-ons dealers will try to throw into the mix. Although their salesmanship is great and an extended warranty of only $40 a month sounds great, it will end up costing you $2,400 more on a 60-month loan. Although add-ons sound great in the moment, they can essentially be just another way for a dealer to jack-up the price of your car.

In order to avoid buying add-ons which are not worth the price you will ultimately pay, make sure you know the add-ons which are necessary and those which are just gimmicks. Additionally, check your financing and sell sheets for fees you should not be charged. Examples of such charges include a hidden loan acquisition fee and other fees, such as “customer service” or document preparation fees.

 

Your Best Strategy:

To avoid falling for the tricks dealers often use, it is a good idea to do two things to make sure you will come out on top. First, research car prices and second, do comparison shopping. A recent survey showed that knowing the dealer’s invoice prices and visiting at least two dealerships could potentially save buyers an average of $800. Searching websites such as TrueCar, Kelley Blue Book, and Edmunds.com will help you find invoice prices and discover what your trade-in is worth.

Another strategy which is rather ingenious can be found on GetRichSlowly.com. They recommend emailing all the dealers in your area saying, “Hi, my name is so and so. I plan to buy such and such car today at 5pm. I’m going to buy it from the dealer who gives me the best price. What is your best price?” Such an email will help you cut to the chase very quickly and avoid tricks which jack up the price of a car.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Article provided by smartasset.com. Original article may be located here.

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4 Signs Your Financial Advisor Is Taking You to the Cleaners

Hiring a financial advisor might be a good idea if you need help managing your portfolio, planning your estate or working toward your long-term goals. Knowing that you can trust your advisor to make sound decisions is the key to a good professional relationship. If you’re worried about falling victim to a Bernie Madoff-style scam, here are some ways to tell that you’re being ripped off.

1. They Promise Too-Good-to-Be-True Returns

As the expert, your financial advisor should display a certain amount of confidence in the investments they’re steering you towards. Overconfidence, on the other hand, can be a sign that your advisor has something to hide. If they’re guaranteeing a specific return on investment or showing you balance sheets with above-average yields from year to year, it’s a good idea to question whether those investments are legit.

The same goes for if they’re promising high returns on low-risk investments. There are vehicles that generate consistent returns without the same degree of volatility as the stock market. But it’s best to be skeptical if your advisor seems overly enthusiastic about selling you a particular product.

4 Signs Your Financial Advisor Is Taking You to the Cleaners2. They’re Cagey About Communication

In addition to trust, transparency is another important component when you’re paying a professional to manage your finances (particularly if they have a fiduciary duty to you). Good communication shows that your advisor is committed to laying all their cards on the table.

While that doesn’t mean they’re required to be on-call 24/7, they should be able to respond within a reasonable time frame if you have a question or concern that needs to be addressed. If you have a hard time pinning your advisor down or they’re less than forthcoming when you request specific information, such as a log of real-time trades, that should indicate that something’s not right.

3. They Convince You to Trade More Often

One of the ways financial advisors make money is by earning a commission every time you make a trade. If you notice that your account is experiencing an unusually high trading volume, you may be a victim of what’s known as churning. Simply put, this happens when an advisor encourages you to buy and sell purely for the purpose of racking up extra commission fees.

So how do you tell whether your account has been churned? You can look at the gains in your portfolio that follow your trades. If your advisor is telling you that you need to swap out a particular stock or portfolio to increase your wealth but the gains are falling short, that could be a sign that your advisor is churning.

4 Signs Your Financial Advisor Is Taking You to the Cleaners4. The Investments They’re Choosing Aren’t Your Style

Financial advisors are supposed to guide you toward investments that align with your overall investing strategy. If you’re being pressured to move too far outside your desired asset allocation, that may signal that your advisor’s motives are more about preserving their bottom line than yours.

For example, if you’re being pushed toward investments that carry high upfront sales charges, your advisor may just be out to line their own pockets with the commission. Another tactic advisors may use is convincing you that you need to invest in a wrap account. While wrap accounts can streamline your investment management, they might come with hidden fees, and are not suitable for all investors.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Article provided by smartasset.com. Original article may be located here

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