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Succes Online Financial Education Newsletter
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Maximize your tax refund 

By Jessica Horton, Copywriter

Note: This guest post was written by Jesse Campbell, counselor for Money Management International.Collect money

Your money has been waiting patiently in state and federal treasuries, playing Angry Birds and reading the same issue of Men’s Health over and over again. But now it’s time to bring your money home!

Time is running out to file your income tax returns, so here are a few tips to ensure as many of your little green friends as possible make it home this spring.

Plan ahead. This one might be off the table for this year, but it’s never too early to start planning for next year. You should begin by keeping accurate, organized records. It’s also important to remain informed of tax laws and how they could affect you.

Deduct for charitable donations. There's no denying that giving feels good (except for giving blood, which makes me feel terrible no matter how many shortbread cookies and juice boxes they press into my numb hands). And luckily the IRS wants to reward you for your charitable donations in the form of a deduction. Just make sure you give to a tax-exempt organization that can provide you with a letter detailing the donation. Your roommate’s bongos are a good place to start.

Deduct for losses occurring due to disaster or theft. The key to this deduction is that the event that caused the loss must be “identifiable, unexpected and unusual.” This includes car accidents, natural disasters and vandalism, but it does not include natural deterioration or your house cat’s unwavering belief that picture frames, vases and collectible plates belong on the floor, not the shelf, thank you very much.

Deduct for job-search expenses. You can only deduct for expenses accrued on the job hunt if you’re seeking the same position, but with a different company. First-timers and people looking to shift into a new industry are, unfortunately, out of luck.Be sure you keep receipts and records for every cost associated with the process. Related costs could include printing and mailing résumés, transportation to and from interview locations, and fees paid to employment agencies. Phone calls to and from your prospective employers are even tax-deductible, though you should probably still avoid the urge to call every 20 minutes to ask if they’ve hired you yet.

Take the time to know what deductions you qualify for. So maybe your bike was stolen because you forgot to chain it up, or maybe your Uncle Carl isn’t exactly as “tax-exempt” as he claims to be. You may still qualify for certain deductions! Do you pay interest on a home mortgage? Do you pay union dues? Do you have to purchase and clean your own uniform for work? Familiarize yourself with the available credits and deductions for the tax year to ensure you’re not cheating yourself out of extra cash.

According to reports, the majority of filers simply use the standard deduction rather than itemizing – which can leave many feeling short-changed. So keep in mind that if you just can’t be bothered with all of those numbers and decimal points, you can hire a professional do the legwork for you!

Just remember: It's your money.

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Should you save,
spend or reduce debt?

If you have already filed your 2011 tax return, you are probably anxiously awaiting your refund from the government.

While your annual tax refund may look and feel like free money, it’s important to remember that it's not. You worked hard to earn every penny of your income — including your tax refund. 

This year’s tax refund dilemma may be weighing pretty heavy on the minds of many taxpayers. Several hundred or thousands of dollars could make a big difference for many families who are struggling to make ends meet.

It’s important to carefully consider all financial decisions, including how to make the most of your refund. Before making any hasty decisions concerning your tax reimbursement, consider the following suggestions offered by the financial experts at Money Management International:

  • Save - Placing your windfall money in a savings account could be the difference between a financial setback and a financial disaster. Besides, you work hard for your money, so make your money work for you. Depositing $2,000 into a savings vehicle that earns 8 percent interest can really add up. After 5 years, it will be worth $2,939. After 10 years, it will be worth $4,318.
  • Spend - With all the pressure being put on American consumers to spend and help stimulate the economy, the decision to spend may seem a bit more acceptable than in the past. However, while it’s important to be concerned about the national economy, it’s imperative for taxpayers to pay particular attention to their personal economies. If you choose to spend your refund, spend smart now for big savings later. Upgrade your appliances to energy-efficient models that can lower your electric, gas, and water bills and save money in the long run. Complete car maintenance and home repairs to help add value and preserve the life of your investments.
  • Reduce debt - Reducing your debt allows you the freedom to make smart future financial choices. For consumers struggling with credit card debt, using a refund to accelerate debt payments is an easy financial decision. If you pay the minimum monthly payment of 4 percent on a $6,000 credit card debt with an 18 percent interest rate, it would take more than 13 years to repay. In that time, you would pay $3,515.68 in interest charges.

Finally, if you’re tired of facing the “tax-refund dilemma,” consider reducing the withholding on your W-4 to see more money in each of your paychecks. Each option holds it's own benefits, so ultimately you should make the decision that you know you can benefit the most from in the long-term.

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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
866.530.9869 or visit

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