Couples & Money: Do Whatever Works for the Relationship

I’ve worked in financial services since 2000. During that time, I’ve had a chance to see how couples handle money together. It’s been insightful. Why?

Because when I first started helping clients manage their money I thought that EVERYTHING should be handled together. Helping them ACTUALLY manage their money changed that idea.

What I came to realize and what should have been obvious from the beginning, is that everyone is different. And that includes how people think and feel about money. Some people don’t care that much about it. Others see it as the ultimate form of security. Again, everyone is different.

What has also emerged from these experiences with couples and money is that there are 3 types of money relationships that couples have. Here they are:

  • Everything together
  • Everything separate and
  • Some joint and some separate

I’ll give a quick summary of each.

The first couples’ relationship type is the type that handles everything together. They have nothing but a joint bank account. They do their taxes together. They have joint investment accounts. The home is in both of their names. They see separate anything as almost “hiding” something from the other and could result in problems in the relationship.

The second couples’ relationship type is the type that handles everything separately. They bank separately, they file taxes separately. One doesn’t know what the other has in credit card debt or student loans or anything else. They just allow each other to handle what they are responsible for.

And finally, there are couples that mesh the two prior ideas. They not only have a joint account for shared bills and responsibilities but they also have separate accounts to handle their responsibilities.

But no matter what type of money couple a couple is, I’ve come to realize that as long as the relationship works for them, that’s all that matters.

So when it comes to handling money, couples just need to see what works for them.

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Chapter from TaxAssurances’ Book: Child Tax Credit

 

The following post is a chapter in the TaxAssurances’ book, “Top 12 Tax Deductions You Might Have Missed. Tax Tips For People Who Do Their Own Federal Taxes.”

You can purchase the full book on Amazon.

Chapter 1  Child Tax Credit

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Besides being a blessing to a parent’s life, children can provide some real tax benefits. There are a few to consider.

First and foremost, they increase the number of exemptions and deductions a parent can have on their tax return. That’s a great start. But in this chapter, we’ll specifically discuss the child tax credit.

The $1,000 credit per child helps lower a parent’s tax liability for the year. And parents can use the credit for each one of their children.

There are some requirements to take the child tax credit and the IRS has provided some guidance. Here’s exactly what they say:

A qualifying child for purposes of the child tax credit is a child who:

  1. Is your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, adopted child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild, niece, or nephew),
  2. Will be under age 17 at the end of the year,
  3. Did not provide over half of his or her own support for the year,
  4. Lived with you for more than half of the year (with certain exceptions),
  5. Is claimed as a dependent on your return,
  6. Does not file a joint return for the year (or files it only to claim a refund of withheld income tax or estimated tax paid), and  
  7. Was a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a U.S. resident alien. For more information, see Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens. If the child was adopted, see Adopted child.

Now, it is worth noting that the IRS imposes limits on taking the credit. Also, some parents may not be able to take the credit at all. Here’s what they says about those limits specifically:

You must reduce the maximum credit amount of $1,000 for each child if either (1) or (2) applies. 

  1. The amount on Form 1040, line 47; Form 1040A, line 30; or Form 1040NR, line 45, is less than the credit. If this amount is zero, you cannot take this credit because there is no any tax to reduce. But you may be able to take the additional child tax credit. This credit is for certain individuals who get less than the full amount of the child tax credit. The additional child tax credit may give you a refund even if you do not owe any tax. 
  1. Your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is more than the amount shown below for your filing status. 
  1. Married filing jointly – $110,000. 
  1. Single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) – $75,000. 
  1. Married filing separately – $55,000.

Now if that seems confusing don’t worry. The tax prep software works out the details for you. Just know that it is a credit that should appear on your tax return if you qualify.

So if you’re a parent that meets all of these qualifications, make sure you include all your child’s information on your tax return. It can help lower your taxes and potentially get you a larger tax refund.

For more information about the child tax credit and the additional child tax credit, read IRS Publication 972 on the IRS.gov website.

Again, You can purchase the full book on Amazon.

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Ten Things to Know About the Child and Dependent Care Credit

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Child care is expensive. Month in and month out, parents across the country work hard to pay for childcare. Thankfully there is some tax relief from the government.

Lawmakers years ago recognized that parents needed some sort of relief from the childcare cost burden. The relief caps out at a certain amount and it doesn’t cover every dollar spent but it does help some.

Here’s IRS guidance on how to take advantage of the child and dependent care credit:

Ten Things to Know About the Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you paid someone to care for your child, spouse, or dependent last year, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit on your federal income tax return. Below are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about claiming a credit for child and dependent care expenses.

  1. The care must have been provided for one or more qualifying persons. A qualifying person is your dependent child age 12 or younger when the care was provided. Additionally, your spouse and certain other individuals who are physically or mentally incapable of self-care may also be qualifying persons. You must identify each qualifying person on your tax return.
  2. The care must have been provided so you – and your spouse if you are married filing jointly – could work or look for work.
  3. You – and your spouse if you file jointly – must have earned income from wages, salaries, tips, other taxable employee compensation or net earnings from self-employment. One spouse may be considered as having earned income if they were a full-time student or were physically or mentally unable to care for themselves.
  4. The payments for care cannot be paid to your spouse, to the parent of your qualifying person, to someone you can claim as your dependent on your return, or to your child who will not be age 19 or older by the end of the year even if he or she is not your dependent. You must identify the care provider(s) on your tax return.
  5. Your filing status must be single, married filing jointly, head of household or qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child.
  6. The qualifying person must have lived with you for more than half of 2010. There are exceptions for the birth or death of a qualifying person, or a child of divorced or separated parents. See Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
  7. The credit can be up to 35 percent of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your adjusted gross income.
  8. For 2010, you may use up to $3,000 of expenses paid in a year for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals to figure the credit.
  9. The qualifying expenses must be reduced by the amount of any dependent care benefits provided by your employer that you deduct or exclude from your income.
  10. If you pay someone to come to your home and care for your dependent or spouse, you may be a household employer and may have to withhold and pay social security and Medicare tax and pay federal unemployment tax. See Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide.

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Married? File Taxes Jointly

Taxes_DueDuring a recent tax filing season, a new tax client of mine openly cried at my desk because of her newly discovered $8,800 tax bill to the IRS and $2,200 tax bill to New York State. All primarily because she filed her taxes “married filing separately” instead of “married filing jointly” with her husband.

Married Filing Separately

Federal and state governments want legally married couples to file their taxes together and to encourage them governments don’t allow certain credits, deductions and exemptions for couples who file “separately.” It also puts couples who file “separately” in a higher tax bracket then those who file “jointly.”

Taxes for 1099 Independent Contract Work

My client also got the new tax bills because she worked as a 1099 independent contractor during the year outside of her normal 9-5 and did not pay taxes on that income throughout the year. $18,000 worth of self employment income.

W4 Exemptions/Allowances

To cap off her problems and to make matters worse, her job in the social services field did not take out enough in taxes every paycheck to meet her tax obligations for the year. Had she simply put zero or one on line 5 of her W-4 form, her employer would have taken out more each paycheck to meet her tax obligation.

Tax Solutions

To make my client’s life better going forward, I gave her a number of recommendations. First, I talked with her about the differences between filing separately and filing jointly. She’s going to try to work with her husband on that. Next, I gave her the necessary paperwork she’ll need to pay her estimated taxes for her self-employment.

Then, I told her to talk with her employer about changing her exemptions/allowances so she can make them as low as possible. That way more taxes are taken out of her paycheck then needed. Finally, I gave her the websites for the IRS and New York State to work out a payment plan for her outstanding debt. With all of this hopefully we’ll have a much better tax prep experience next year.

 

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