Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tax Bill Tips

Let's face it- times are tough and money is super tight. The last thing we all need is a tax bill to add to our other bills that are stressing us out and making us go crazy. I found these advisory tips on paying off Uncle Sam- I truly hope they can help
If you think you'll be scrambling to afford your tax bill come April 15, here are some moves worth considering:

Plead your case
The worst decision a struggling taxpayer can make is to hide from the IRS. Fail to pay your taxes and you'll undoubtedly end up with a bigger tab after all the fees and penalties kick in.
Instead, call the IRS (800-829-1040). Explain your financial situation and request to work out a payment plan. The IRS may provide a short-term extension on your tax bill, waive penalties that would kick in with a late payment or suggest that you enter an installment payment plan.

Skip over this content Make a down payment
Taxpayers who can only afford to pay part of their tax bill – say, 50% -- but not all should pay as much as they can come April 15. There is no minimum percentage that the taxpayer must pay, and they don’t need to contact the IRS before proceeding with this payment option, says Kip Dellinger, senior tax partner at Los Angeles-based accounting firm Kallman and Company. Once the IRS receives your return with a partial payment, you’ll get a bill for the remaining amount about 45 days later.
Those extra few weeks may be enough time for you to shore up the cash you'll need to pay the remainder of the bill. Just don't wait too long. Any balance you carry will typically accrue interest, which changes each quarter, says IRS spokesman Eric Smith. The current interest rate is 5% annualized compounded daily, he says.

Skip over this content Apply for a monthly payment plan
Taxpayers who need several months -- or even a few years -- to pay their tax bill should consider applying for an installment agreement on IRS Form 9465.
These plans allow taxpayers to pay a fixed amount each month until their bill is paid in full and comes in two flavors: a guaranteed installment agreement and one that’s not guaranteed. To qualify for the guaranteed plan, your tax bill (not including interest and penalties) must be $10,000 or less. In addition, during the past five years you must have filed your tax returns on time, paid income taxes in full and you must not have entered into an installment agreement for payment of income tax. And, in most cases, you’ll have to agree to pay the full amount within three years.
Taxpayers who owe more than $10,000 (not including interest or penalties) or don’t meet one of these requirements can apply for an installment agreement that’s not guaranteed. Based on your tax returns, the IRS will confirm that you can’t afford to pay your tax bill and determine an affordable monthly payment amount. Those who qualify for this plan will have up to 60 months (or longer in some cases) to pay off their bill.
With both payment plans, once a request is approved, you’ll have to pay a fee of $43 to $105 depending on income and method of payment. You will also have to pay interest on any unpaid portion of your tax bill.

Make an offer in compromise
Those who were hit hard in 2008 -- say you lost a home to foreclosure -- can apply for an offer in compromise, where the IRS settles your bill for less than you actually owe.
To qualify, you need to prove that you don’t have the assets or the income to pay the full amount or must demonstrate that paying the total tax bill would create an economic hardship. Be prepared for the IRS to assess all of your assets, including cars, real estate and bank accounts.

To apply for an offer in compromise, fill out an application
. Note that you will be assessed a $150 application fee.

Don't Recycle These

Most of us feel less guilty when we toss something in the bin headed for the recycling plant rather than the landfill. If you include some items that aren't recyclable, you run the risk of your entire batch being shipped off to the nearest dump.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself about local recycling rules. In the meantime here's the short list of common items that don't belong in the recycling bin, no matter what your zip code:

Pizza boxes. The oil from pizza can contaminate cardboard boxes, making it impossible to process them into clean paper.

Napkins and paper towels. It's not the paper goods themselves that present a problem, but the fact that they're typically used to wipe up food, cleaning products, and other "hazardous waste."

Sticky notes. Their size, color, and the adhesive strip make them a better bet for the trash bin.

Plastic caps. Curbside programs won't recycle them, but Aveda collects them and turns them into packaging for new products.

Wet paper. Paper fibers that have been exposed to water are shorter and therefore less valuable to paper mills, making it unprofitable to collect and recycle.

Figuring out which plastics you can recycle is often confusing. It's generally well known that most curbside programs only take plastics labeled #1 and #2 on the bottom, but many people are shocked to hear that shape sometimes plays a role. For example, many communities don't accept tubs (mouth wider than base), but will take bottles (base wider than mouth) even if the numbers are the same because these plastics are manufactured differently, says Darby Hoover of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Check in with your local waste or sanitation department to find out what the specific rules are in your area. You can also log onto for a wealth of recycling information from helpful articles to its extensive database where you can type in your zip code for a listing of local resources.