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How To Save Time And Money This Tax Season

(NAPSI)—Tax season is upon us, and you should have received all the documents needed to file your taxes and (hopefully) get a refund. To help reduce the stress that comes with filing taxes, Glinda Bridgforth, a leading financial expert who explores the emotional and cultural factors that block financial success, identifies a few ways to save time and money this tax season:1. Get organized. Whether you visit a tax professional or do it yourself, gather all documents ahead of time, such as your employer W-2s and any 1099 forms you may receive for interest income, retirement plans, or gig work such as driving for Uber. Don’t forget to check your online accounts where you might need to download tax documents.“Avoid the panic and stress that comes from disorganization,” says Bridgforth. “Also, look at last year’s return, which can serve as a good guide.”2. Start (and finish) early. Don’t wait until April. Starting the process early will let you get organized, and have more time if you need it. Filing early will not only help you get your refund faster, it may also help you avoid tax-related identity theft since you will already have filed using your own Social Security number before someone else tries to. Speaking of identity theft…3. Watch out for scams. Where there’s money there’s a con, and criminals have become very good at exploiting tax season. Be wary of threatening phone calls from “IRS agents” and phishing e-mails “from the IRS” seeking your personal information. Also, while all tax preparers and DIY websites aim to minimize taxes and maximize refunds, beware of promises for more than your fair share. Unscrupulous “tax preparers” entice unsuspecting taxpayers with hopes of a high refund, only for them to lose it all. The IRS just launched “Identity Theft Central” (IRS.gov/identitytheft) to help taxpayers report identity theft and learn how to protect themselves against crimes.4. Get all your tax breaks. Did you get married? Have children? Change jobs? Take all the deductions you deserve.“Even if nothing has changed in your life, you may have missed credits in the past that you’re entitled to,” notes Bridgforth. “For example, according to the IRS, one in every five eligible workers fails to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).”If you find out you qualify for the EITC this year and didn’t claim it in the past, you can even file amended returns for 2016, 2017, or 2018. The IRS provides a wealth of this type of information online at IRS.gov/eitc.5. Look for tax prep discounts and promotions, then use direct deposit. The full service tax prep companies, as well as the DIY websites, are competing for your business, so be sure to shop around and look for coupons or rebates to find the best deal. Many free options are also available to those who qualify. Just go to IRS.gov/freefile to check eligibility.And for the fastest and most secure delivery of your tax refund, opt for direct deposit instead of a check.“If you don’t have or don’t qualify for a traditional branch bank account, there are new digital options to consider,” says Bridgforth. “Several FDIC-insured digital bank accounts and prepaid debit cards are available to open online or on your mobile phone, such as Green Dot Bank’s Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account, or Intuit’s Turbo Card prepaid debit card for those who use TurboTax.”In addition, if you direct deposit your federal tax refund into your Green Dot account, not only will you get it faster, you’ll be entered in the Green Dot Extreme Tax Sweepstakes for a chance to win one of fifty $1,000 prizes. Details and official rules can be found at greendot.com/ExtremeTax.

  • icon Updated: February 16

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Updated: February 15, 2020 - 2:51 am

(NAPS)—Here’s something many parents may be surprised to learn: tooth decay is the most common preventable chronic disease among children in the United States.


The Problem
If left untreated, it can hurt more than your kid’s mouth. Your child’s physical and social development—as well as his or her school performance—can also be affected. More than 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness. Kids with healthy teeth have fewer sick days and less distractions from learning.


The Good News
Parents may be surprised to find that getting their child’s teeth checked is easier and less expensive than they think. Under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), essential health care services like preventative care and dental health are covered. For more than 20 years, CHIP has been instrumental in reducing the number of uninsured children to historic lows. Medicaid and CHIP cover more than one-third of all children in the U.S. and have helped insure 95 percent of the nation’s children—an estimated 35.5 million currently are covered.


How It Works
Dental coverage includes access to regular check-ups, x-rays, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, fillings and more.


Parents can look online to see whether their children are eligible. In most states, children and teens up to age 19 can enroll. Depending on income, many families qualify for free or low-cost health coverage. In general, children and teens in a family of four earning up to $50,000 a year—and in some places more—may qualify for Medicaid and CHIP.


Children and teens can stay covered for as long as they qualify. Families can enroll at any time of the year, but need to renew coverage each year.


More Good News
Even if your application for Medicaid and CHIP has been denied before, you and your children may now be eligible. Parents may qualify for Medicaid as well, but you don’t have to be eligible for your child to get coverage.


Who Can Help
More kids can be covered with the help of Medicaid and CHIP. With that as the goal, the Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign, a national outreach and enrollment initiative, informs families with children and teens about Medicaid and CHIP eligibility. Families enroll through their states. Call 1-877-KIDS-NOW or visit InsureKidsNow.gov to be connected to program offices in your state.


Learn More
For more information and to see eligibility requirements, visit www.InsureKidsNow.gov.

Wednesday 02/12/2020
Protect Yourself From Social Security Scams
Updated: February 14, 2020 - 2:38 am

(NAPSI)—Calls and e-mails from scammers pretending to be government employees are widespread. Social Security phone scams are the #1 scam reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Chances are you, a friend, or a family member have received a call like this.


You don’t have to be receiving benefits to become a victim. You may get a call saying there is a problem with your Social Security number or account. Everyone, regardless of age, income, and geography, is at risk. Scammers will try to scare and trick you into giving them your personal information or money.


Is It A Scam?
The best way to protect yourself and your money is to recognize a scam. Scammers use intimidating language and often offer a “solution” to fix what they say is a serious problem with your Social Security number or account. How can you tell when it’s a scam? Social Security will not:


•    Say your Social Security number has been suspended.
•    Promise a Social Security benefit approval or increase in exchange for information.
•    Call to demand an immediate payment.
•    Insist you pay a debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe.
•    Require payment by retail gift card, pre-paid debit card, Internet currency, wire transfer, or by mailing cash.
•    Ask for your personal information.


Scammers prey on your fears. The stories they tell you would scare anyone. No matter how horrible the story, if they do anything above, it’s a scam.


What Should You Do?
If you receive a suspicious call, the safest thing for you to do is:


1.    Hang up!
2.    Don’t share personal information or make a payment.
3.    Report the scam to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General at https://oig.ssa.gov.


And, if you receive such threats via e-mail, delete the e-mail and do not click on any links or download any attachments. Even if the e-mail or an attachment contains Social Security’s seal or names of real people, ignore it. Then, report the scam.


Other Tips
How about if Social Security needs to contact you? Generally, they will mail you a letter and only contact you by phone if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with them.


Usually, Social Security will mail you a letter that contains telephone numbers for contacting them. You can also contact Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting SSA.gov.


Scammers are always looking for the next way to trick someone. No matter how someone might try to scam you, learning the warning signs shared here can go a long way to protecting yourself and someone you care about from identify theft and financial loss.


If you think you have been scammed, don’t be embarrassed. Report the scam to Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General at https://oig.ssa.gov and share this important information with your family and friends.

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