How I got through the tax season

I do not consider myself a tax expert.  All I know is that the government wants my money, they’ve already gotten plenty of it via withholdings, and all I want to do is get my fair share back.

And with that in mind … the minute I received my W-2 forms from work … I called my tax professional.  He’s an independent tax agent – he’s not one of those people who work at the big tax preparation companies.  He figures out taxes by sitting with me at the kitchen table, he uses a calculator and a ballpoint, and he knows what I can claim and what I can NOT claim.

And it’s been his simple advice that has gotten me through a lot of tax concerns.  With tax season approaching, I’m going to share some of his tips with you, and hopefully they will help you in preparing this year’s tax return – or get you set for your tax return in 2019.

Follow along with me.

You will get taxed for everything.   For example, last year when my Stir Crazy trivia team won the big championship in Atlantic City, we had to fill out forms with the trivia company before we could receive our cash.  And that’s prize money – prize money over a certain amount is always taxed.

Last year, I hit a decent payoff at the slot machine at the harness track.  The woman in the cash cage printed me a W-2G form, then she handed me my money.  Again, I need to provide that W-2G form, because that prize money is also taxed.

Trust me, I know people who received big fat inheritances from a deceased relative, and they go on spending sprees – only to discover that they have to pay an inheritance tax on that money, and they don’t have any of the inheritance left to spend.  Ugh.

Another tip my tax man suggested that really helped me out – add some additional withholdings to your paycheck each week.  Talk to your payroll supervisor and ask if you can add an additional $5 or $10 per pay period to your federal withholdings, and maybe an additional $5 or $10 to your state withholdings.  I listened to what my taxman suggested.  I asked my payroll supervisor to withhold a sizeable amount from my paycheck each week.  I don’t get to see that money, I don’t get to touch that money.  It’s like an enforced Christmas Club account.  When my tax preparer went through my W-2 form to figure out how much I owed … he was pleasantly surprised.

“They took a lot out of your paycheck, Chuck.”

“I told them to.”

“You’ll get a nice return back for doing this.”

Of course, on my next work day, I asked my payroll supervisor to take out an ADDITIONAL amount of money – both federal and state – just because I have absolutely NO idea what chaos Donald Trump’s tax plan is going to inflict upon me.  Better safe than sorry.

Another tip.  File as early as you possibly can.  Don’t drag it out until the final moment.  There are already criminals and scammers trying to compromise your identity and steal your tax return.  It’s a delayed tactic from last year’s Equifax breach.  Don’t let those criminals do it.  Beat them to the punch and file early.  Forget April 15th.  Prepare early to be prepared early.  This can only benefit you.

Oh, and one more thing.  If you receive a call from the IRS claiming that you owe thousands of dollars, hang up.  The IRS will not call you on your phone to tell you that you owe them money.  You know who will do this?  SCAMMERS.  THIEVES.  CRIMINALS.  They will tell you that you owe thousands to the IRS, and that you must pay now – preferably with a credit card or by going to Walmart and buying one of those Green Dot money cards.  Heck, I’ve even heard that one of those scammers is trying to accept payments with bitcoin.  That should be an alert to you right then and there.  The day the IRS accepts bitcoin as payment is the day the aliens and and take over our planet.  😀

Then comes getting paid.  In the past, when I’ve received returns, I’ve asked for paper checks to be mailed to me.  This year, I’ve decided to enter the 21st century (ha!) and requested that my returns go directly to my savings account.  Not checking account, but savings account.  See, now that I’ve completely paid my car note, I have a new goal in mind.  I want to achieve a certain savings level by the end of 2018 … and this will help.  Yeah, I could use this tax return as “mad money,” maybe go down to B&H Photo in New York City and invest in a Nikon or six …

But not this time.  This time, I’m looking towards the future.

I need my money to stay with me.

I’ve worked too damn hard to let it fly away.

These are my tax tips.  Granted, I’m not Warren Buffett…

Heck, I’m not even Jimmy Buffett.

And when it comes to saving money, I’m more like the Golden Panda All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

But if you have tips or suggestions or even personal goals for your tax preparation and returns, I’d love to hear them.  List them in the comments section.

As I said before, we work too hard for our money.

It would be nice to keep as much of it as we possibly can.