Secrets The Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know

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Everytime I hear these ads I just want to scream! DON’T DO IT! I know it sounds tempting. I know you have lots of debt and you don’t know how you are ever going to get out from under it, but trust me, this is one secret you don’t need to know. So this is how it goes. According to Debt Elimination Companies there are secrets the credit card companies don’t want you to know. If you have $5,000 or $10,000 or even $20,000 in credit card debt, just call this respectable sounding debt reduction company(DRC). They will use their secret powers with the credit card companies and eliminate 40-60% of your credit card debt.

Don’t believe it for a minute! Your scam alerts should be going off big time!

How this works is you sign up with debt reduction company and pay them a nice big fee. It can be as high as $3,000. You might even put it on your credit card. It’s OK, they are going to save you thousands of dollars, and even their fee that you just put on your card will be reduced by 40-60%. Then they work with you to come up with just one monthly payment that is less than the mulitple payments you are currently making to your credit card companies. So far so good. But then, instead of sending your payments to your credit card company, you send the payment to the DRC. All is well for a month or two. And then the phone calls will start. Nasty phone calls from people demanding that you pay your bill. They might even call you at work! You see, the DRC has not been making your credit card payments. They have been holding onto the cash. If you call them and ask them why, they will tell you it is all part of the secret. Be patient, don’t let the phone calls get to you, and keep sending your payments to the debt reduction company.

So here is the secret the credit card companies don’t want you to know. If you don’t pay any of your credit card bills for over 90 days, your credit report will become full of the dreaded “90 day lates.” This totally trashes your credit score. Some say it is worse than going bankrupt. The credit card companies decide you are a no good bum. They are pretty sure they are never going to see their money again. Then, if you offer to settle your debt with them, even for way less than you owe, they might just take you up on the deal.
After all, some money is better than no money.

This is where the DRC is supposed to step up and take all those payments you have been sending them (minus fees of course) and negotiate for you to settle your credit card debts “for pennies on the dollar”. But many people find out at this time that the DRC has taken their money and left town. So now you have even less money to pay the credit card companies and your credit rating will take years to recover.

So now you know the secret. If you are becoming overwhelmed with credit card debt there are better ways to handle it. Contact the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. They will set you up with a legitimate credit counseling service in your area where you will learn money management skills and work out a payment plan that won’t leave your creditors hating you. You might even get a lower interest rate, and sometimes some forgiveness on your credit card debt.

What To Do If You Have Unpaid Back Taxes?

Tax time is here! It is bad enough just needing to file one tax return, but what if you have unfiled back tax returns and unpaid taxes? Having unfiled tax returns can be very stressful. The IRS can make your life miserable. They can garnish your wages, put a lein on your house, and even lock up your bank account so you can’t get at your money! Also, know that when you have unfiled tax returns, that tax year stays “open” and available for audit for up to 3 years after you do file your tax return. And every year you don’t file and pay your taxes, penalties and interest are adding up.
So what do you do if you have back taxes and unfiled tax returns?

Filing back taxes is not something you want to do on our own. There are ways to reduce your IRS tax debt, but you have to know the best way to approach the IRS. At the very least you should do some research about all the options available to you.

I have just found a site that can be a great resource. Back Tax Help has an extensive amount of content that you can use to research your particular tax problems. What I really like is they have a number of guides that will walk you through filing back tax returns and paying unpaid taxes. If you don’t have time to do the research, or you don’t want to go it alone, they also offer professional services to help you with your tax problems. So don’t wait any longer. Make this the year you file your back tax returns and get rid of that stress forever.

File Your 2008 Taxes For Free


File Your Taxes for FreeFree File is back for 2008. Once again, if your income is under $56,000, you can prepare and e-file your federal income tax return for free. But be careful before you choose a company. Most will charge you to prepare a state return, and one company, TaxSlayer.com is advertising free income tax preparation, but if you want to print or e-file your taxes, there will be a fee.

The IRS’s Free File Page has a good list of companies, and their restrictions. Make sure to read the fine print, because companies may have different restrictions based on income, age, or what state you live in. In fact, if you live in a state without a state income tax, you may have difficulty finding a free file site.

Here are my top picks for free Tax Filing.

If you don’t need to prepare a state income tax return, start with the big names.

H&R Block’s TaxCut Free File: Free federal online tax preparation and e-file if your adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less and you are age 50 or younger. Includes Form 982 (Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief).If you have to do a state return, it will cost you $29.95 at H&R Block. You can find a better deal elsewhere.

If your income qualifies, (under $30,000 or active military and under $56,000)  look at Turbo Tax.  In addition to free federal tax filing, they offer free state tax filing for residents of AL, AR, AZ, GA, ID, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, NY, ND, NC, OK, OR, RI, SC, VT, WV. Or just $9.95 if you live in a state that does not have a free file program.

TurboTax® Freedom Edition: Free federal tax preparation and e-file if your Adjusted Gross Income is $30,000 or less or you are active military or you qualify for Earned Income Tax Credit. Includes Form 982 (Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief).

You may not have heard of  TaxAct. But they have been a supplier of professional tax preparation software for some time.  They charage $13.95 for a state return, and a federal return is just $7.95 if you don’t qualify for the free program.

Free TaxACT: Free federal online tax preparation and e-file if your adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less and you are age 19 through 55 years old. Includes Form 982 (Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief).

Liberty tax service may be a good choice.  State returns are just $9.95  and if you don’t qualify for the free federal,  your federal return is just another 9.95. They also online tax preparation in spanish.

eSmartTax From Liberty Tax Service: Free Federal online tax preparation and e-File if your adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less, and you are age 50 or younger. Includes Form 982 (Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief). En Español.

Free tax services are only good to use if you have a fairly simple return. If your return is not simple, you should consider hiring a professional. Many times you will save more money in taxes, than you spend on tax preparation, just by having someone who spends the whole year studying taxes.

Is Now A Good Time To Buy Stock?

Should you be buying stock now? The markets are at the lowest levels they have been in in years, and with careful research, you may be able to find some bargains. However, what stops many small investors, is the high cost of stock trading. A traditional broker can charge more than $50 per trade, making it difficult for the small investor to make any profits even with a rapidly rising market. The answer for many people is online trading.

I have been trading online for close to 5 years now. When I was looking for an online broker I looked at many different variables. How easy was it to trade? Was there a minimum deposit required to open an account? What were the trading fees? I wanted to get into stock trading, but I didn’t want to have to invest large amounts of money.

The online broker I eventually chose was Firstrade.com. I have been with them for many years now and have been very happy. They are easy to use and have no minimum deposit requirements. And the commissions are low. Currently just $6.95 per trade.

The old adage is to buy low and sell high. This may be a good time to buy stock. Be sure to do your research and start small until you can some skill and knowledge.

Help From the IRS for Struggling Home Owners

Many years ago I was doing a tax return for a couple who had had quite a few major financial setbacks the previous year.  They had just barely managed to stay in their home.  They had avoided foreclosure because their lender was willing to work with them.  Their loan had been totally redone and the lender had “forgiven” $25,000 of the debt.  This meant the couple was able to make the payments on their new, smaller loan.  After a difficult year financially, they were looking forward to getting a refund when they did their taxes.  They were going to use the money to pay off a few credit cards they still owed on.

It was my difficult job to tell them, that in the eyes of the IRS, debt forgiveness is taxable income.  When you have a loan for $200,000 and the lender lowers that to $175,000, the IRS treats that as income. From their perspective, it is just the same as earning $25,000 and using it to pay down your debt.  My clients were very unhappy when I told them, that only were they not going to get a refund, they now owed the IRS several thousand dollars because of their debt forgiveness.  Talk about kicking someone when they are down!

With the current mortgage crisis, many lenders are working with mortgage holders to restructure loans, and they are forgiving  part of the principal due.  It this housing market it can make a lot of sense. It is better to lose some debt repayment, then to foreclose and get stuck with a house the bank can’t sell.

The IRS has decided to help out homeowners, and for tax years 2007, 2008, and 2009, homeowners will not be required to pay taxes on certain debt forgiveness on mortgages.  If you think this will apply to you, make sure to talk with your tax preparer.  Certain forms must be filled out, and not all home debt will qualify.

Here are some more details from the IRS.

There is now tax relief for struggling homeowners. If your mortgage debt is partly or entirely forgiven during 2007, 2008 or 2009 you may be able to claim special tax relief by filling out Form 982 and attaching it to your federal income tax return for that year.

Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. But under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude from tax up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.

Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, may qualify for this relief. The debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and must have been secured by that residence. Debt used to refinance qualifying debt is also eligible for the exclusion, but only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal, just before the refinancing.

Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the new tax-relief provision. In some cases, however, other kinds of tax relief, based on insolvency, for example, may be available. See Form 982 for details.

If your debt is reduced or eliminated you will receive a year-end statement (Form 1099-C) from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property given up through foreclosure.

The IRS urges borrowers to check the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven (Box 2) and the value listed for your home (Box 7).

For more information about the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, visit the IRS Web site at IRS.gov. A good resource is IRS Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. This publication and Form 982 can be downloaded from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Remember that for the genuine IRS Web site be sure to use .gov. Don’t be confused by internet sites that end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. The address of the official IRS governmental Web site is www.irs.gov.

Links:

Are You Still Asking- Where is My Stimulus Payment?

Click here to go to the IRS Stimulus Page

Have you filed your 2007 tax return, (even if you don’t normally file),  waited at least 6 weeks, yet you still haven’t received your stimulus payment? It sure could come in handy this time of year!  What should you do?

First, check this Stimulus Payment Calculator to make sure you qualify. Some of the reasons you might not qualify are covered in this post,  Where’s My IRS Stimulus Payment?.  If all these things check out, it could be that you are one of the 279,000 taxpayers who had their stimulus payment check returned by the US Postal Service.  Apparently, IRS stimulus checks worth over $163 million have been returned by the postal service as being undeliverable.  That is in addition to the $103 million in refund checks that were returned.

If you think you might be one of those 279,000 taxpayers who’s check was returned by the postal service you need to update your address right away.  The stimulus checks must be sent before December 31, 2008. The IRS is recommending that you update your address by November 28, 2008 to insure that they receive their stimulus payment.  You can update your address by filing form 8822.  You only need to file the form one time and the IRS will send both your stimulus payment and any tax refunds that you are due.

But what happens if you are too late, and you don’t get your stimulus payment this year, are you out of luck?  The good news is that if you qualify for the IRS economic stimulus payment, and you don’t get it this year, you can take it as a credit on your 2008 income tax return that you will file in early 2009.

Debt Free Forever – The Credit Card Pay Off Plan

This is the third post in a series that will explore how you can become debt free, and stay debt free forever. Future posts will talk about when you should and should not use credit cards for purchases. Why you should care about your credit score, how to save money on every day expenses, will credit repair companies help you or hurt you and much more. Make sure to subscribe to our feed so you don’t miss a single installment of this series.

Make sure you have read parts one and two of the series before reading this.  You also need to have done the previous assignments before you can start paying off your debt.

Now, in part 2 you filled out a worksheet that listed all your credit cards, the amount you owed, the minimum payments on your credit card, and the amount you are actually paying.   Hopefully you are paying more than your total minimum payments each month. If you are paying only your minimum payments, or if you are not even paying your minimum payment, we will need to get into some advanced strategies. I’ll save those for the next post.  But I have found that most people who want to pay off their credit cards,  pay more than their minimum payment each month, sometimes quite a bit more! But this can cause problems.

Continue reading “Debt Free Forever – The Credit Card Pay Off Plan”