tax tips

CBS This Morning: Last-Minute Tax Tips

There is less than a week left for many people to meet the April 15 deadline. Massachusetts and Maine residents have until the 17th. The IRS reports the number of returns is down 1.4% compared with this time last year. The average refund dropped $20 to just under $2,900. I joined CBS This Morning to discuss what last-minute filers need to know.

Have a money question? Email me here.

Do I Need More Bonds?

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People love the idea of seeing their investments go up and up and up. But what about when things go down? Where’s the protection? That’s why bonds need to be a part of the overall allocation. That’s the discussion as we kick off the latest show with DJ from Texas. A great call and important lessons to be learned.

Hour two was more from the endless pile of emails and a surprise guest to help break down tax season.

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"Jill on Money" theme music is by Joel Goodman,

Tax Season Tips with Ed Slott


With tax season in full swing, it can only mean one thing. It’s time for our annual chat with Ed Slott, the ultimate tax guru, and founder of IRA Help.

Here is your tax season boot camp for the first tax year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Itemized vs. Standard Deduction: Every taxpayer needs to determine whether it makes sense to claim one of these two deductions, both of which reduce the amount of income subject to tax. TCJA nearly doubled the Standard Deduction to $12,000 for Single and Married Filing Separately, $24,000 for Married Filing Jointly and $18,000 for Head of Household.

A couple of caveats on itemized deductions:

Your total deduction for state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 ($5,000 if Married Filing Separate). Any state and local taxes you paid above this amount cannot be deducted.

The deduction for home mortgage and home equity interest was modified. It is now limited to interest you paid on a loan secured by your main home or second home that you used to buy, build, or substantially improve your main home or second home. So if you used a home equity loan or line of credit to pay off another debt, like a credit card or student loan, it would not be deductible.

There is a new dollar limit on total qualified residence loan balances. If your loan was originated or treated as originating on or before Dec. 15, 2017, you may deduct interest on up to $1,000,000 ($500,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt. If your loan originated after that date, you may only deduct interest on up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you are married filing separately) in qualifying debt.

Deduction for alimony is eliminated for agreements executed after December 31, 2018, or for any divorce or separation agreement executed on or before December 31, 2018, and modified after that date. In conjunction with this change, alimony and separate maintenance payments are no longer included in income based on these dates.

Claim Credits: Now that personal exemptions have been eliminated, credits are even more important.

The Child Tax Credit has increased to a maximum of $2,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17. Up to $1,400 of the credit can be refundable for each qualifying child as the additional child tax credit. In addition, the income threshold at which the child tax credit begins to phase out increased to $200,000, or $400,000 if married filing jointly.

There are two different education credits available: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly Hope Credit), which is partially refundable, and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Both may apply to expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse and any dependents.Have a money question?

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CBS Evening News: Using Your Tax Refund for Retirement

Many people admit they don't save enough for retirement, but it's never too late to invest in the future. I joined the CBS Evening News with Jeff Glor to explain how your tax refund could be a good jumping off point.

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Don’t Blow Your Tax Refund

Don’t Blow Your Tax Refund

Syria! Tariffs! Mueller Investigation! Facebook under Fire! Corporate Earnings! All of these headlines have moved markets over the few weeks, leaving investors whipsawed and exhausted. If you’re keeping score, the Dow and S&P 500 are down slightly on the year (-1.5 percent and -0.7 percent, respectively), while the Russell 2000 and NASDAQ Composite are up (+0.9 percent and +3 percent, respectively).

Lessons from Your 2017 Tax Return

Lessons from Your 2017 Tax Return

Your 2017 taxes are done. Congratulations! But you’re not done yet. (Sorry) While you have all your tax forms and documents handy, this is the perfect time to analyze last year’s finances and use those insights to prepare for the big changes that will occur in 2018 and beyond. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start planning that summer vacation!

Tax Season Identity Theft + Retirement Fears

The PS reminder continues: Please subscribe to our podcast, Better Off.  It's very similar to the radio show and you'll hear more money calls with our awesome listeners.

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This week we started the show with what will no doubt go down as the call of the year for 2018.  Jeff from Massachusetts is in great shape when it comes to planning for retirement.  He has a lot of money socked away.  However, he recently made a major, major decision that has totally spooked him.  I'm not going to give it away, so you're going to have to listen! 

Next up was Michael from Minneapolis with a question about life insurance.

We finished up hour one by continuing the great email purge of 2018! 

Tax season is like the Super Bowl for identity thieves and that means that you need to be on high alert for scams. To help break down some of what you need to guard against, we're joined in hour two by security expert Adam Levin, author of Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves. Here's the scams at the top of his list:

IRS Phone Scam

  • Where someone pretending to be from the IRS contacts a consumer stating they owe back taxes and threatens them with jail time if they don't pay. These fraudsters prey on fear and many consumers give in, paying a bogus fee through prepaid card, wiring money or even an iTunes card. Golden rule - the IRS never calls, emails or texts. If you receive these calls, hang up.

W-2 Scam

  • Imposters are using phishing schemes to target the HR departments of businesses asking for W-2 or W-9 information. In these spear phishing schemes, the emails appear legitimate but they are designed to steal important financial documents. If you receive this email or text, don't respond.

Child ID Theft

  • Fraudsters target children's data because they have clean, pristine credit profiles and they can use this data for a host of ID theft schemes, including tax related, medical, financial and even criminal. 
  • Parents need to be on high alert for child ID theft and should create a credit profile for their child and then freeze it.

Medicare and Social Security Scams

  • Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries across the country report receiving calls from scam operators (frequently with foreign accents), who claim to represent Medicare, Social Security, or an insurance company.
  • These callers claim that new Medicare, Social Security, or supplemental insurance benefits cards are being issued or that the beneficiary’s file must be updated. The scam artist asks the consumer to verify or provide their personal banking information, which the scammer then uses to commit ID theft.
  • The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration will not call you to ask you to disclose personal or financial information.

To combat tax fraud, consumers need to file early, take advantage of the PIN if they have been a victim of fraud, use long and strong passwords, enable two factor authentication, use legitimate tax preparers, store important tax docs on an encrypted thumb drive and never give out personal or financial info to someone who contacts you, even if the caller ID looks legit.

Have a finance related question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

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"Jill on Money" theme music is by Joel Goodman,