Friday, January 22, 2010

TAX TIPS for Maximum Refunds

As seen with Ellie Kay and ABC NEWS NOW.

This year 75% of all Americans will get a tax refund. Last year's average refund was $2,753, with 2 out of 3 taxpayers e-filing their returns. Those with direct deposit averaged a $2,997 refund.

With the economy the way it is, families need every dollar they have coming to them.

But taxes can be sooooo incredibly complicated, especially with the recent tax laws that have passed--how can you figure it out? Help is just a click away as you follow my top tax tips for this year:

  • Procrastination Costs $$ -- Just do it! Start now, the longer you procrastinate, the more likely you are to be rushed in filing your return and that translates into mistakes or missing something that could cost you money.
  • Put Off Spending -- Some of you may be getting big bucks this year, but DO NOT SPEND IT UNTIL YOU HAVE IT! What if you don't qualify for the home buyers tax break and you've already spent that money? This is the same problem we ran into in 2008 when the stimulus checks came out. People spent the money (via credit) before it arrived and then ended up in a pickle when the checks were late. The IRS is having to navigate the new tax credits for home buyers and trying to avoid fraud. This means they won't even start processing those returns with the home buyers credit until mid-February. Many families are counting on these big returns, but you need to be cautious & don't spend what you don't have yet!
  • Professional vs. Predatory Preparers --When the economy is down, fraud is up! Don't ever go to a tax preparer who sets up a shingle outside their door for a few months or those who claim they can get you a larger refund than another preparer. Instead go to a reputable and professional site where you can save money and file for free such as TaxAct . They can handle simple or complex returns and they are free for everyone, regardless of age or income, plus it includes the tax forms you will need.
  • Pressure Loans -- Any tax preparer who pressures you to take a RAL (refund anticipation loan) is someone you need to run from! The interest rates are a rip-off and there are even big names associated with these costly practices such as H&R Block , so steer clear!
  • Put it Off! -- Employers are required to have mailed W-2 forms by Feb 1, 2010. Some tax preparers say they can access W-2s for you early, but it's really best to wait until you receive the real deal in the mail before you e-file.
  • Prepare to e-file! -- If you use the TaxACT Free Federal Edition to e-file, then you have an error rate of less than 1%, compared to 20% on paper returns. If you also get direct deposit on your e-file, then you can get your money in as little as 8 days.
  • Pay Less -- Some of the new tax laws, such as the ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) give tax breaks to 95% of taxpayers, with some families saving more than 13K in home, car, college and other tax credits. Make sure you use an online tax program that is all inclusive and up to date on these tax credits.
  • Prepping Year Round -- Go to the IRS website and sign up for their tax e-mail updates that can help you reduce your taxes throughout the year. While you're there look at some of the other information on tax credits, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to understand and that knowledge can translate into dollars in your wallet! Don't forget to go to Ellie's tools section for all kinds of calculators that can help your finances year round as well!
  • Print and mail -- Even if you are e-filing, you still need to print your own copy of the return. If you are filing for certain tax credits, such as the Home buyer's credit, then you are not allowed by the IRS to e-file. In which case, you can go to TaxAct, fill out all the info, print it and then mail it in with the necessary documents that aren't available electronically.

Hope this helps!

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lean Bodies and Fat Wallets in 2010 - Question Contest

We will be giving copies of "Living Rich for Less" to anyone whose question Ellie reads on ABC News Now's "GOOD MONEY" show on Friday, January 15th.
The deadline for your questions is: Wednesday, noon PST, January 13, 2009
Topic: Healthy and Wealthy in the New Year
In today's economy can you still get healthy and stay on a budget? When is buying exercise equipment a good investment? What about plans like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig--how much do they cost you (per pound) to lose weight? Is it a wise choice to invest in special treatments for youthful looking skin or is there an inexpensive way to keep your skin looking great?
Good health doesn't have to cost your wealth and Ellie will answer these questions and more on ABC's GOOD MONEY show. Find out the least expensive way to get fit, lose weight, live longer and feel great as Ellie looks at the latest trends in health management.
Do you have a health/wealth related question? Maybe you want to know the best way to manage your budget in relationship to health clubs, vitamins, or free ways to exercise. Send us your questions as they relate to the New Year's resolution to get a lean body and a fat wallet. If the producers select your question, we'll send you a free copy of Ellie's popular hard cover book, Living Rich for Less (Waterbrook, 2009).

Remember the ABCs of past prize winning questions:

Accuracy- Questions that accurately fit the show's theme for the day are most relevant. This week's theme: "Lean Bodies and Fat Wallets in 2010 with Ellie Kay."

- If it takes two minutes to ask the question, then it won't be selected. A question that can fit into a 10 to 15 second soundbite is ideal.

Clarity - The world of TV news revolves around questions asked in a way that is easily understood by viewers.

Please email your questions to: or posted on Ellie's blog at

Or, post them on her facebook wall!

We look forward to hearing from YOU as you join Ellie on ABC News!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ellie Answers Your Questions! Livestream on Jan 8, 2010

Live Online Q&A with Ellie Kay!

Bring your questions and get answers from Ellie LIVE through this LIVE streaming broadcast!

WHEN: Starts at 4 p.m. (ET) Friday, January 8, 2010

WHERE: WaterBrook Multnomah livestream

WHY: Ellie will be speaking about her books Living Rich for Less and The Little Book of Big Savings. She'll also be answering questions you may have about how you can bring financial health to your new year!

HOW: Visit WaterBrook Multnomah to watch the broadcast live.

Mark your calendar (Note that the time zone for the chat is Eastern Standard Time, meaning it will start at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. CT, 2 p.m. MT and 1 p.m. PT)

Ellie will chat for a few minutes about her books, then take your questions via the chat room that's just to the right of the video player.

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