You haven’t changed, but it has
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You haven’t changed, but it has
Every few years, the IRS changes its tax code, and that could have a dramatic effect on how you file or what you owe. Just because you’re life hasn’t changed — no new kids, no marriage or divorce — doesn’t mean that you don’t qualify for a new exemption. Read about what’s different: “Sometimes exemptions expire, but if you’re using tax software, it should inform you of what’s new,” Charney said.
Most common questions tax pros get
“There are two areas people always ask about: one is claiming dependents and the other is filing status or whether to file as head of household,” Charney said. “The rules are very complicated, and they’re not as clear cut as they used to be.” Meighan added: “Software prevents errors on this for the most part, but you have to pay attention. Sometimes your boyfriend or girlfriend may qualify as a dependent.”
When it’s time to get a tax professional
Two-thirds of taxpayers file a simple return that doesn’t require the help of a professional. But the penny-wise, pound-foolish adage rings true when it comes to taxes. “If you’re not confident, it’s always a good to talk to a tax pro. The cost is cheap when compared with what you might save,” Charney said. Also, people with foreign income, rental properties or side businesses, or people who want sophisticated tax planning for estates, should visit a professional.
When to file an extension
There’s no penalty for filing an extension, but an extension doesn’t get you out of paying taxes owed. “If you don’t have everything ready in April, file an extension,” Meighan said. “But that does mean if you owe taxes, you still have to pay them by April 17. People may ask, ‘How do I know what I owe?’ Make a good guess. You can overpay and then get the refund as soon as you file.”
Can’t pay? File anyway
It’s a tough economy, and you might not be able to pay your taxes on time. But failure to file and failure to pay are met with separate penalties. Even if you can’t pay a dime, file your taxes. The IRS’s installment plan allows taxpayers to make monthly payments (with interest), and avoiding a failure-to-file penalty is always the best option.
THE BOTTOM LINE If you’re just realizing you need to file taxes soon, you’re behind. Paying taxes is a year-round commitment with a due date in April, and procrastinating can make paying a more painful process. Keep receipts, spread out the work and check for silly errors that might mean months of wrangling to get your refund check.
A new season usually means new shoes for growing kids. Get their Mary Janes, sandals and sneakers at Stride Rite. Buy one pair and get another for half off. At stores in Pentagon City, Springfield Mall, Bowie Town Center, Montgomery Mall, Tysons Corner Center and Fair Oaks Mall. Sale ends April 1. For addresses and hours, see www.striderite.com.
You never know what treasure you’ll unearth at a Weschler’s estate auction. Items include a 72-piece Gorham sterling silver service (estimated to sell between $1,200 to $1,800) and a 7-by-5-foot Oushak rug ($500 to $700). 10 a.m. Friday. Take a look before you bid: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday. 909 E St. NW, 202-628-1281. www.weschlers.com.
Upgrade your outdoor furniture during a Brown Jordan factory-authorized sale at Sheffield Furniture & Interiors. Take 40 percent off the entire line of aluminum, teak and resin chairs, tables and umbrellas. A 9-foot octagon umbrella is $717, reduced from $1,195. Through April 9. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 1582 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-881-6010 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Tuesday-Wednesday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., noon-6 p.m. Sunday. 21080 Dulles Town Center, Dulles, 571-323-6000. www.sheffieldfurniture.com.
Get the most out of a manicure. Butter London’s base coat and quick topcoat will be $19, originally $25, at area Ulta stores and www.ulta.com Monday. See Web site for details.
— Janet Bennett Kelly