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Tips on When to Take Social Security Benefits

The consequences of the onset of Social Security benefits are enormous. Recent reports by Sandra Block, at Kiplinger.com and Viewpoints at Fidelity.com confirm this.

You are eligible for benefits if you’ve worked a minimum of 10 years in positions covered by Social Security. Benefits are based on two main variables: earning in the 35 highest-paid years of your career and the age in which you begin receiving your benefits.

Those 35 years do not have to be consecutive, and if you work past age 65, those earning years, even part-time, will be included if part of your highest 35 years.

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5 Lessons On Gift Taxes from Oprah and Tom Brady

Originally posted on the Christian Post on March 10

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

After the amazing Super Bowl victory of the New England Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady, he said that he was going to give the truck he was going to get as MVP to James White for catching all those passes Brady sent his way in the nail-bitter of a game. He gave a previous truck for a Super Bowl win to Malcolm Butler, another teammate who played a great game. How easy is it to give a gift like that? Does the IRS get involved? (And where can I find a friend like that?!)

Just Curious

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Today, some tips to avoid ID theft combined with some good news

The number of people who reported being victims of identity theft in affidavits to the IRS has “fallen dramatically” this year, according to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“Through the first nine months of this year, that number is down by more than 50 percent,” he said in a press call, adding that there are about 275,000 fewer identity theft victims than there were a year ago.

Fighting ID theft has been one of the IRS’s top priorities in recent years.

In the first nine months of 2016, the IRS’s systems stopped more than $4 billion in fraudulent refunds from identity thieves. Almost 500,000 fewer tax returns were stopped this year than in the same period last year, and the commissioner said this is because it has become more difficult for criminals to file fraudulent tax returns as a result of efforts by the software industry.

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We need to be very concerned about the ever-increasing tax burden on fewer and fewer people in the US.

The Tax Foundation, in its annual report on when the nation as a whole has earned enough to pay its taxes, announced the date as April 24. Let me help you understand what that means. TaxArticlePromo.jpg

First, according to the Tax Policy Center, 45.3% of Americans did not pay any federal income tax in 2015. That means approximately 55% of those of us who pay federal income taxes, must work until April 24 to pay the US government. We do not start earning income that is “ours” or eligible to keep without being taxed until April 25.  

To put this in perspective, their findings showed that:

  • Collectively, Americans will spend more on taxes in 2016 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.
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Tax Refunds: To Shop or Not To Shop – That is the Question

Chuck Bentley on 4/15/16 9:00 AM

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Originally posted at Christian Post April 15, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

Procrastinators Unite! This weekend, my husband and I will be crashing on our tax returns, due Monday, April 18th, and we’re hoping to receive a return. What do you suggest we do with the money?  

Procrastinator

Dear Procrastinator,

It is never best to wait until the last minute to do your income tax return but it is better than not filing or filing late! 

Since the majority of filers will receive a refund, this is a great question; especially when the average tax return in 2015 was $3,120.  Usually, I wouldn’t turn to a poll to offer advice, but I’m going to make an exception today after reading about a new one out from Bankrate.com. Despite assertions that the economy is doing well and unemployment is down, most people are experiencing stagnant wages with little job growth.

Better than Shopping. Bankrate found our present economy is impacting how people intend to use their money with “84 percent of Americans receiving refunds intend to pay down debt, save or invest their windfall or use it for everyday necessities.” In fact, only 7 percent said they intended to spend the money or take a vacation with the cash.  

I thoroughly applaud the more than 8 out of 10 Americans intending to hold on to that cash. At Crown, we advise that a good budget begins with $1,000 in an emergency fund followed by a plan to get debt free and stick with a plan. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, 80 percent of Americans are in debt, though that does include people with a mortgage. Still, about 4 in 10 people have expensive consumer debt like credit card debt, student loans or car loans.

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Do you expect a tax refund and if so, what are going to do with it?

Today, I have some interesting data for you taken from a recent BankRate.com survey.

Do you expect a tax refund this year, or do you think you will owe taxes?

Don’t forget that if you get a refund, you gave your money to the government for free all year and now you are asking them to send back what you could have had in your account by simply adjusting your withholding amounts.  The 12% who are not getting a refund or owing more taxes are the ones that got it right.

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The Tax Man Cometh

Chuck Bentley on 4/8/16 2:34 PM

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Originally posted at Christian Post April 8, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

I’m getting nervous as the April 18th tax day approaches. Sometimes it feels like a test I’m going to flunk, and I don’t want to be audited. Do you have any good advice on taxes and does the Bible have anything to say about this?

 

Worried.

Dear Worried,

You’re not alone in feeling the pressure. A Zogby Interactive Survey found that 56 percent of Americans find the tax filing process stressful, while 18 percent say it’s very stressful.

Did you know that even Jesus had a taxman? Jesus’ disciple Matthew was a tax collector who left his job to follow the Messiah. It’s interesting that taxes have been with us for a while, and that the Bible indicates we should pay them.

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Are you overlooking possible tax deductions?

I found a helpful article by Intuit Corporation on the most commonly overlooked potential tax deductions. Did you know that recent numbers show that “more than 45 million of us itemized deductions on our 1040s—claiming $1.2 trillion dollars’ worth of tax deductions”?  So if you are among those 45 million who itemized their deductions, here are a few to look for that I picked from the Intuit list of their Top Ten.

  1. State Sales Tax – Did you purchase a vehicle, boat or building materials? State sales taxes are deductible but vary by your state and income level. Be sure to use IRS tables or calculators to determine what you may qualify to deduct.
  2. Charitable Donations that you made in cash or other out of pocket expenses such as costs for driving for a volunteer effort, organizing help at a homeless shelter or other qualified charities that you supported with good deeds. Your expenses should be carefully documented and deducted.
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Ever been tempted to cheat on your tax return?

From research compiled by the IRS, 15% of Americans admit to cheating on their tax return. Here are some of the top ways individuals have attempted to deceive the IRS.

  1. Claiming the first time homebuyer tax credit when the house was not in fact their first home.
  2. Working a job under the table while also getting unemployment benefits.
  3. Filing a false insurance claim.
  4. Lying about their income to qualify for free government money or assistance programs.
  5. Not declaring income earning in tips.

Intuit, the owners of TurboTax, surveyed why the 85% of American taxpayers were motivated to be honest with the IRS.

The greatest influence was not fear of an audit but a commitment to maintain their personal integrity.  

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches.”  Think about how much better off you are to be honest.

As Christians, we should never struggle to determine if we are going to be honest in any financial matters.  Always file your returns. Always tell the truth and always pay what you owe.  Any compromise on these values will damage you and reflect poorly on the body of Christ.

It’s tax season, so file, be honest. Sleep well at night. And thank God for the riches of having a good name. 

Crown has identified an IRS approved tax preparation software company that shares our values. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and like to file on-line, go to Crown.org and check out the link to file on-line through our website.

 

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Do you think it’s too early to think about taxes? Guess again!

A lot of people want to get out of debt in the New Year, and don’t know how to get started. But filing taxes early could be the thing that helps you get free.

The average tax refund is more than $3,100 – a good start on debt reduction in the New Year. You can file your taxes now and get your refund sooner than later.

To get started, gather your tax records, and look through your finances for potential deductions, at Crown.org we can help you think through the possibilities. One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you are a Do-It-Yourself tax preparer OR whether you want to hire an accountant, or, you can save a little money by preparing your own taxes first and then having a professional take a look for a smaller fee. Your legwork can lead to savings.

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