Owe taxes this year or think you might? First, if you have not yet prepared your return, do so now – even if you don’t submit it until the last filing day. That way, instead of worrying about or guessing how much you might owe, you will have a balance to work with. Once you know how much you owe, you can start planning how to pay it. Most online tax software will allow you to prepare your taxes free of charge. You only have to pay when you eFile. So take a few minutes to start preparing your federal taxes even if you just want to get an estimate.
You may be wondering how you ended up owing when taxes are taken out of your paycheck every pay period. The two most common reasons: You over-claimed on your W-4, or you have taxable income that was not part of your regular payroll. It is usually safest to claim your actual number of deductions or less on your W-4. If you are single and do not have deductions (for example, dependents or a mortgage) it is wise to claim zero, single on your W-4. You can even pay extra withholding to the IRS through your payroll if necessary. It may help to research what federal tax bracket you are in to estimate how much you are obligated to pay. While nearly half of American tax filers do not actually pay federal taxes, if you make a livable wage and do not have deductions, you are likely going to have to pay.
After your returns are prepared and you know how much you owe, you can start making plans. Most Americans who stress about owing at tax time don’t have a rainy day fund or a rich uncle to save them. If you find yourself owing at tax time, you have a few options. First, file your taxes even if you cannot pay. That way penalties for failing to file are not added to your tax bill. If you can pay some, pay what you can to reduce the amount of interest you will have to pay.
This article is not for those with a lot of assets or investments, but for the average Joe just a few paychecks away from being homeless like many Americans. Coming up with extra money in a short amount of time can be difficult, and any income you acquire will have to be accounted for next tax season. But you can get creative and come up with at least part of your payment within the next month.
Here are five fast ways to make your tax payment:
1. Take on a short-term second job or 1099 contract position. Most low-paying, short-term jobs don’t add up to enough to have much taxes taken out, so you will see more of your check than you are used to. However, it will be added to your income for the 2014 tax year, so make sure to make up for the tax difference in how much you withhold from your regular paycheck. If you acquire a 1099 contract position, no taxes will be taken out of your pay but you will have to pay the taxes on your own later. So basically, you are borrowing from the future either way. But in the short term, it might be worth it.
2. Sell any asset you can. You may not own a lot of things, but you might consider selling your second car, your timeshare week, the treadmill you never use, your extra outdoor recreation gear or that one thing you said you would refurbish but never did (such as that classic car that has been sitting in your garage for years). You may as well put to use those things that are not helping you right now. Most of these things can be unloaded rather quickly using a local online classifieds website or via your social media connections. Keep in mind that you may have to pay some type of tax for income earned from selling assets.
3. Barter. You may be able to trade services that don’t actually make you money but could save you money that you could apply to your tax bill. You might be surprised who will trade for services. For example, some real-life instances include one young woman who provided house cleaning services in exchange for a laptop that she could use to make additional income; one man traded homegrown food items for dental work; another offered massage therapy sessions for the use of a friend’s second car. Refer to IRS Topic 420 for information about whether you have to claim bartering services.
4. Beg and borrow – but don’t steal. If you are in good terms with your family you may be able to get a family member to agree to a short term-loan. If the amount is under $10,000, your parents are generally safe to loan the money to you without being subject to a gift tax. However, if it is a large loan, your parents may have to account for the loss to the IRS. Or, you may be able to borrow from yourself by taking a credit line out on your home equity or from your 401(k). Some even find it beneficial to pay their tax debt using a low-interest credit card.
5. Negotiate with the IRS. You can work with the IRS to negotiate payment arrangements. Even though you may be anxious about talking to the IRS, you are never going to get out of your debt and will have to pay eventually, so you may as well get it over with. If you owe less than $50,000, you can apply for a monthly payment plan online. There are fees for setting up the agreement, but it might be worth it if you really cannot afford your debt right now.
• Don’t fall victim to scammy “tax professionals” who appear to be able to work miracles. There is no such thing as a magical tax loophole that is going to save you. Either your taxes are prepared correctly or not. It is best to work with a qualified CPA or a trusted tax service.
• Don’t take out a high-interest loan such as those offered by paycheck loan services. Unless you can reasonably afford to pay back the loan using your next check, it is likely best avoided.
• Don’t submit your taxes with incorrect information that may incite an audit. Making false claims can get you into big trouble, including fines and penalties.
If you ended up owing the IRS for the 2013 tax year, you may want to pay a visit to your human resources department and change your W-4 right away so you don’t have the same problem next year. If you already claim zero-single and still ended up owing, you may want to consider paying a little extra out of every check to compensate. You may also want to consider making an investment that will lower your tax obligation, such as buying a home. Once you own a home, you will be able to claim other itemized deductions, which can help your tax situation. Lastly, relax and face the music and know that you’ll be better off next year.
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