What happens when you come between a mean, barking dog and a young girl? Answer: A Trip to the Emergency Room! Yep, I grabbed the dog's collar and he whipped it around and bit my hand. One tetnaus shot, one x-ray (revealing a dislocated thumb), a prescription of heavy duty antibiotics, one small surgery on the thumbnail and one bottle of vicodin later--and I was on my way.
That dog bite reminds me of how suddenly you can get bit by the tax guy if you don't grab the end of this year by the collar and then run for cover! Here are a few of the end of the year tax tips that I'm recommending:
- Give It Away! -- When you're putting away those holiday ornaments and your attic, the closets and the garage are a mess anyway, start a "donation" pile that you can give to a qualified local charity. Be sure to get a tax deductible receipt and go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/ to get a fair valuation of the good to excellent quality items you donate. Remember that you have to itemize your donations in order to get this benefit. Cash donations require that the taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. To get all the details (and as a good cure for insomnia) see IRS Publication 526.
- Give Next Year's This Year -- Maybe you have some donations you'd like to make in January but don't have enough donations for 2008 to itemize. Donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year count for 2008. This is true even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until next year. Also, checks count for 2008 as long as they are mailed this year. By making this extra donation early, you might have enough to itemize.
- Pay Deductible Expenses by Credit Card -- Just as a donation made by a credit card in 2008 will count toward the 2008 tax year, the same applies to business expenses charged before the year ends.
- Bonus IRA -- Invest this year's bonus in an IRA to reduce your taxes. If you have a certain income bracket, you can invest in the Saver's Credit. Check with your tax professional to see if you qualify, or follow the link to look at the tax brackets.
- More 401(k) -- You may already be contributing to your 401(k) in order to get the benefit of your company's matching funding. But keep in mind that you can reduce your paycheck by paying a little more to this fund up to a specified percentage of your salary. Every time you reduce your paycheck, you increase your tax savings!
- Mortgage UP! -- I saw a really lame movie a few years ago called "Cowboy Up" starring Kiefer Sutherland. It was lame because you found yourself crying and you knew the movie was too smarmy to cry! A forgettable flick before he was an unforgettable star. Do your yourself a favor and Mortgage Up to make an extra payment in order to deduct the interest on 2008's taxes.
Don't let this year's taxes take a bite out the hand that feeds it, thereby making you next April's fool. Take the time to tend to taxes--after all, tis the season!
"America's Family Financial Expert" (R)