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Posts tagged with: Taxes

Open Enrollment

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First, thanks so much for the many thoughtful (and kind!) comments on my budget post. When I saw the comment count shoot up it made me nervous to read through them, but almost everyone was really very kind and forgiving (and generous in offering support, tips, advice, etc.) THANK YOU!

Speaking to one of the common comment themes I saw – many people asked about my take-home pay. For a $95k salary, my take-home ($2440/biweekly) is pretty low. The reason for this is that I have a LOT of things withheld and/or paid from my check pre-tax. This list includes the following (all numbers from my most recent paycheck):

  • Medical insurance ($125.50/check)
  • Dental insurance ($52.28/check)
  • FSA – Health ($68.37/check)
  • FSA – Dependent Care ($136.75/check)
  • Retirement account (required and already investing at the lowest amount so no chance to reduce – $256.91/check)
  • Parking permit ($38.45/check)

Plus, of course, all my taxes as well ($552.13 from my last check).

If I added this all up correctly, that comes to a whopping $1230.39 taken from my check before it hits my direct deposit! WHOA! That’s a third of my check!

So the question came up – can I change some of these things so I can get back more money per paycheck. And the answer is – YES! Right now is my open enrollment period and I’d LOVE to have some help with figuring things out! Let me address things one at a time.

Taxes

I can likely lower my tax withholdings per check, but have opted not to make any changes right now. Taxes are not part of my open enrollment, so I can change those at any time. Based on what feels best to me (and many comments/advice I’ve received), I’m going to do our 2017 taxes ASAP once the new year hits. That will give us a better feel for how much we really owe and we can make adjustments accordingly. Given our huge tax debt (that we’ll be paying on for what feels like a lifetime), we’ve opted NOT to reduce our withholdings for the time being. We’re likely over-paying a little this year, but we feel okay with that – any extra money can go to help reduce the tax bill and we can re-adjust after the CPA has gone over everything.

Retirement, Dental, Parking

These are all pretty well “set” and cannot be changed. We have limited options for dental – I can decline the insurance, but we use it and need it. So it stays. In terms of parking, I live too far to walk/bike and don’t have anyone living nearby to ride-share with. So unless I switch up my Mom car for a motorcycle (never happening), this bill is pretty much “set” too. Retirement is required by my employer. I used to invest a full 10%, but have reduced down to the minimum (7%) already. No way to make this any lower.

Medical 

So here is where I could REALLY use some advice. Currently, we have a PPO plan and this entire year I’ve been thinking that, come open enrollment, we’d switch to a HSA. But when I started really doing some research to compare the two options, I think we’d end up spending MORE with the HSA. Yes, we’d save on monthly premiums, but the out-of-pocket costs and deductibles are much higher.  Here are some side-by-side comparisons I put together. What do you think?

Health Savings Account PPO 
Per-paycheck Premium $61 $150 (note: this is more than listed above because premiums are going up)
Overall Deductible In-network:

$1300/employee; $2600/family

In-network:

$500/employee; $1,000/family

Other Deductibles Non-preventive prescription coverage:

$1300/employee; $2600/family

None
Out-of-pocket limit In-network:

$2,000/employee; $4,000/family

In-network:

$1,000/employee; $2,000/family

Not included in out-of-pocket limit Premiums and health care not covered by the plan Premiums, drug co-pays, and health care not covered by the plan
Annual limit on what the plan pays None None
Costs for common services with in-network providers.

Primary care to treat illness or injury

Specialist visit

Other practitioner office visit

Preventive care /screening

Diagnostic (x-ray, blood work)

Imaging (CT/PET/MRI)

Mental health

Generic drugs

 

 

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

No charge

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

non-preventive: 100% until deductible is met. Preventive: $10 copay

 

 

$15 copay

$30 copay

$10 copay for OB/GYN

$15 copay primary care; $10 OB/GYN

No charge

No charge

$15 copay

$10 copay

 

I receive biweekly pay (26 checks/year). So the HSA annual premium is $1586. The PPO annual premium is $3900 (a difference of $2314). But if we’re having to pay $2600 for our family health deductible + $2600 for the prescription deductible (compared to a $1,000 deductible for the PPO plan), I think it’s just too much money out-of-pocket! (though, caveat, I’m no expert with healthcare – does the out-of-pocket max only apply to healthcare, or would that also include prescription coverage??)

My thought is that we’d be better to stay in the PPO. It also scares me to think of paying 10% of any imaging, diagnostic, etc. We’ve been lucky thus far (knock on wood), but we have young kids – broken bones are a given at some point, right?

Those more experienced than I am – thoughts?

Flex Spending Accounts

The dependent care account contributions will decrease in 2018 and even moreso in 2019. Right now, we still have hefty monthly bills. Our girls are in kindergarten and, though half-day kinder is state-subsidized, the state does not cover the costs of full-day kinder. We pay that. The total was actually right about $1,000/month, but we paid out of our FSA a huge chunk for one of our kids’ entire semester of tuition (for which we received a discount). We’ve been paying the remaining costs out-of-pocket (the dependent care FSA was depleted months ago).  For next year, we’ll only have one semester worth of full-day kinder costs (the second half of the year they’ll advance to first grade – totally free!), plus the costs of care for summer and after-care, as needed. (Note: several people have suggested that hubs take over childcare so I just wanted to address that here:  hubs does handle the bulk of childcare. Where we live, half-day kinder is 8:30-11:30am. Hubs is in classes full-time that extends well beyond that timeframe. The full day kinder program is 8:30-3:00pm. Currently, hubs gets the girls at 3:00pm every day except Wednesday – his long day – so we pay very little in “after care” at the present time. Just one day per week. This arrangement is unlikely to change for the rest of the academic year).

Bottom line, we should be able to lower the amount of FSA money withheld for dependent care for next year, thus increasing the size of my take-home pay.

The health care FSA is entirely dependent upon whichever medical plan we choose. If we get the HSA, we’ll use the health savings account. If we keep the PPO, we’ll keep a flex spending account for medical expenses. This year, we put $1750 in our health FSA and it was not nearly enough. If we keep the PPO, we’ll increase our health FSA contributions probably to about $2250-ish (though I’d need to crunch numbers first).

So the big question is…..HSA or PPO (with a FSA)? Pros and cons? What are your thoughts and why?


IRS Frustrations

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The IRS is currently working its way to the top of my list of most hated organizations to deal with.

My current Top 3 List of Organizations I Hate Dealing With include:

#3. Social Security (I am the representative payee for my father so I have to deal with them in reference to his disability payments, and it suuuuuucks the life out of me!)

#2. IRS! Read more below.

#1. Navient. Oh Navient, you know how much I hate you.

(Side note: Hmmmm, interesting how 2 of the 3 are government organizations and the third is also backed by the federal government. Inefficiency, much???)

Nothing like calling the IRS, sitting on hold for half an hour, and then having the line disconnected. Only to call again, sit on hold again, and have it disconnected again. I think there might be a 30-minute time hold limit and then the IRS system automatically disconnects??? I’ve been sitting on hold while working at my desk so I’m not out and about with poor cell service or anything like that. Grrrr!!!!! If you can believe it, I’m still trying to set up a payment plan from my 2016 back-taxes!!!! AGH! In April we sent a huge payment and tried to initiate a payment plan at that time. Thought it was all set up, but it turns out it was never accepted. I’ve tried calling multiple times but have been thwarted every time (to clarify, I’ve been able to speak to people, but they can never help me – they have to mail me something to sign, or transfer me to another department. It’s a whole cluster-f over there)! I’ve been making payments online through their online system just so they’re receiving something, but it hasn’t been officially set up yet. I was just able to (fingers crossed) finalize everything today, but they still deal with 1983 technology so the official agreement has to be mailed out, signed, and returned. Sooooo, still not completely set up but at least it’s progress compared to the past 7 months of nonsense. The issue, if you’re curious, is that when we did our 2016 taxes we also had a small amount they claimed we owed from 2015. We had an accountant help us with everything and agree the 2015 charges shouldn’t exist. So everything was on “hold” with 2016 stuff because we’d refused to sign an IRS agreement of taxes owed for 2015. I guess they couldn’t move forward with any payment plans unless and until the discrepancy was resolved, which took a long time and a lot of snail-mail back-and-forth. (Who doesn’t use internet these days??? I mean, I know it’s secure info but there are lots of ways to encrypt email, right???)

Anyway, it’s been a pretty shitty past couple of days. A lot of stress with work drama and some nonsense going on at our kids’ school in addition to the ever-present financial stress we have in our lives currently. I’m glad to have this minor “win” on the IRS front. Not that it’s even been officially completed yet. But I think we’re finally on our last step. Supposedly, the papers will come in the mail, we sign and return, and everything should be set for our first OFFICIAL payment starting in December. We’ll be paying $283/month, which is significantly LESS than what I’d been paying previously through their online system. The reduced payment means we’ll be paying for a much longer period of time (ummmm, approximately forever???) But with our serious budget shortfall going on right now, we really can’t afford to continue making larger payments. So it is what it is. And we keep moving forward.

My motto the past few days has been: Make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today. My husband thought it sounded a little pessimistic, but I think it’s optimistic. Looking forward to a better tomorrow! 🙂


Hope’s Debt – October, 2017

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Creditor
Balance

(as of 10/14/17)
Interest
Min. Payment
Car$10,0007.00%$308
Credit Card$5,00017.00%$36
Summer Camp (2018)$3,3750.00%$500
Student Loans$34,3492.88%$307
Computer Equipment$2,73822.90%$84
Taxes (State)$6,0000.00%$100
Self Lender$1,01310.57%$97
Collections 1 (Medical)$618
Collections 2 (Apartment)$499
Collections 3 (Ex-husband)$6,9546.25%$246
Amazon$52726.99%$25
Total$71,073$1,703

Credit

Car – I recently wrote a post on this new debt. You can read it here. My goal is to pay this car off in just at two years, by paying $500 per month.  My first payment of $400 will be paid this week.

Credit Card – For the last several months, I have been paying this card off every month and then charging everything I could to it…monthly bills, groceries, gas and so on. In doing that, I have paid less than $10 in finance charges. The problem is that I can’t get it to a $0 balance. And this bothers me. I am literally paying it and then using it. I don’t think this is wise and I want to get it to a $0 balance. The nice thing is that I do earn points with every dollar spent that I can convert to cash.

Amazon – this is a line of credit with Amazon that I typically pay off every month. I use it frequently for household items, etc. But now I am at the point that I would like pay it down to $0 and keep it there rather than rolling it every month.

Computer Equipment – I know this was a dumb decision, but it’s one I cannot regret. All three of the kids have new laptops. With me being gone some much, a lot of their schooling is online. It makes it easier for me to track their time, help them remotely and they have Skype classes specifically with a Spanish tutor. And, of course, the majority of Sea Cadet’s 11 college hours are online. This is my personal number one priority to pay off.

Chosen Debt

Summer Camp – I mentioned this in my recent budget update, technically I could stop paying this at any time or wait until next summer and pay it in one lump sum.  But paying every month, with a pay off in April makes me more comfortable and assures that my kids have a plan for next summer without me scrambling. The total amount covers 6 weeks of camp next summer.

Self Lender – this is also a “chosen” debt. It’s actually a CD that I will gain access to next September when paid in full. They report to the credit agencies which was my motivation for opening the account. I need massive repairs to my credit and this is essentially forcing me to save (thinking Christmas next year.)  Have you heard of it? Thoughts?

Collections

Collections 1 – I will argue to the day I die that I do not owe this debt. This is medical debt from the twins which the state is supposed to pay in full via the provided medical insurance. A couple of years back, the state inadvertently cancelled the twins insurance, and while they turned it back on the next business day, this fill fell through the loop.  I have called medicaid, the state, the twins caseworker, and so no to no avail.  In order to get it off my credit I may have to pay it, but I definition do not owe it!

Collections 2 – Evidently our apartment charged me for damages to the apartment we moved out of a year ago this past April. I NEVER received any notice of that, it just showed up on my credit report. Two things regarding this…they kept my entire deposit. No problem, we had animals, I respect that. But two, our apartment was as spotless as an apartment can be after people live in it for almost two years. The carpet was clean, the apartment was clean, we hadn’t hung stuff on the walls so there was no wall damage.  But as it has been so long and I have no “proof” I am probably going to have to pay this one too.

Collections 3 – Another unknown debt that appeared on my credit report, again from my marriage. It has to do with a line of credit on our old house, which he bought me out of 8 or so years ago. I am working on fighting this one too, but for now, I have made payment arrangements with them and they have removed it as a derogatory statement on my credit report.

Taxes – This is a placeholder debt. With all our moving around, mail is just starting to catch up with me. This state tax debt is from the year my ex and I divorced. While I have filed every year, he may not have. I have arranged a payment plan of $100 per month while I track down tax filings, etc. to defend my “lack of liability” for this debt. We will see how it goes.

With all this on out on the table now, what do you recommend as my plan of action? What should my priority be?


Ashley’s March 2017 Debt Update

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March was a whirl-wind of a month! I was gone for a couple days in Texas, the girls had an entire week off school, and it felt like we were being pulled in a million different directions by all of our disparate responsibilities. I’m glad to be back in more of a routine this month and am already looking forward to May. For us in academia, it signifies the end of another academic year and the beginning of a MUCH NEEDED “break” in terms of course-load, etc. (working at a university, I’ll probably always talk about “years” in terms of academic rather than fiscal or calendar years, lol). But May is important for another reason, too. For the past 3 months (including April), I’ve been paying these HUGE payments toward our medical debt. I did so in exchange for a debt forgiveness of about 33% of our medical debt. So come May, we’ll have an extra $1200 that can go towards other debt and we’ll have one fewer debt to report in our debt spreadsheet. It always feels good to knock a debt off, and I can’t wait.

Here’s where we stood as of April 1st, after all of March’s debt payments had posted:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,0925.8083March82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025March
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$85136.5534March
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$72126.5529March
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63856.5525March
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$85146.5534March
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$97926.5569March
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$10000% (through Sept 2017)$400March$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$44440% (through October 2018)$150March$4594
Medical Bills$31540% (must be paid by April)$1216March$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$68,714 (Feb balance = 70,444)$2065Starting Debt = $145,472

Navient Payments

With our recent IRS tax trouble, I’ve been making lower sized debt payments in an effort to try to save up for the upcoming IRS bill. I’m paying minimum payments on all of my subsidized student loans and only an extra $50 above the minimum for my two unsubsidized student loans. As a quick reminder, I’m on the IBR repayment plan so my unpaid interest is forgiven on subsidized loans, but not for unsubsidized (which is why I’m prioritizing them a little). I was concerned when my balances had increased a little this month for the subsidized loans so I called Navient and they explains that the government subsidy (which covers any unpaid interest) is only paid once per quarter. So it looks like the balances have increased a little, but that capitalized interest will be covered at the end of the next quarter. Feels kind of scamy, but nothing I can do about that.

Balance Transfer #2

I’ve reduced the amount I’m paying on Balance Transfer #2 down to $400/month. Continuing at that rate, it will be gone by June. At that point, I may try to initiate another balance transfer to move some more debt away from Navient. That being said, I’ve noticed that my recent balance transfer offers have had a bit higher transfer rate than in the past year, so I’d only do so if it’s still a good savings overall. I’ll wait and see when we get to that point. I also wanted to clarify something I’d had wrong before. Originally when I created my debt table I had listed that this bill was due earlier (based off a 12-month timeframe), but I had conflicting notes in YNAB because there I had it listed as being an 18-month timeframe. When we were hit by the IRS taxes, I called for clarification (otherwise, we were on track to pay it off within 12 months, but I wanted to know if we had the extra 6 months wiggle room). Turns out the special offer IS good for 18-months, which is why I’ve been able to decrease my payment amounts. I’ll still have it paid off well before the special 0% APR promo period expires. Sorry for any confusion to anyone who may have noticed!

Balance Transfer #3

This is my newest balance transfer. I paid $150 last month, but only have $75 scheduled for this month. Again, I’m paying less so that I can try to scrounge up cash for the IRS.

IRS

Everything financial is now tainted by the whole IRS tax issue I’ve talked about previously (see here or here). I’m embarrassed and feel a bit ashamed to be in this position, but I have to say that the tax debt has officially INCREASED our debt and will be setting us back in our progression. At this point, I’m honestly too embarrassed to even give the total amount (though we have finally finished everything with our CPA, so we now have official numbers). I was thinking it would be right around 10k and, if so, I was really trying to scrimp, save, and hustle up any funds and try to pay them in full by the April 18th deadline. When confronted with the true, final amount that we owe, I know there’s no way we’ll have the money together by April 18th. Instead, I’m going to have to set up a payment plan with the IRS and will officially be adding a debt to our list of debts. I’ve been dreading discussing it here because it’s just SO stupid and was 100% our fault. There’s no excuses. We just messed up and now we owe Uncle Sam the big bucks.

Budgeting

Related to everything going on, we’ve really been trying to plan ahead and think about what our family budget will look like in the coming (academic) year. Hubs’ is still currently drawing a (very) small income from his business, but it will likely be gone in the next few months. By mid-summer my big raise will go into effect at my full-time job. Though at the same time, I’ll be losing my side-income from my part-time job. Our kids are starting kindergarten in the fall so our childcare bill will decrease in a couple months (note, in our state kindergarten is only “free” for half-day and we still need full-day childcare so our bill will not be eliminated, but it will be reduced a bit from our current spending). Basically – there are a lot of financial pieces to the puzzle and a lot of things to consider. It’s hard when we don’t have exact numbers, either (e.g., I’m trying to estimate what my net take-home pay will be once my raise goes into effect, but there are many factors involved since a mandatory 7% goes to retirement, and then I also contribute to an HSA and FSA, etc). I think we may have some financial growing pains on the horizon as we figure things out and try to make a path moving forward. I think our path will likely include tightening up our purse strings quite a bit from what we have in the past year. Not that I think we were frivolous in the past year by any means, but I think things are about to really be getting TIGHT. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s definitely disheartening given all our progress in the past year (which, now with the tax thing, feels like a lot less progress has been made since we owe all this money – ugh! So mad at myself!)

Anyway, that’s what’s up in my world.

Oh yeah, and the car situation. That’s still going on. Turns out my car had 2 different problems. One was a Ford issue (covered by Ford) and the other is a warranty issue (covered by my extended warranty). But it’s been a HUGE fiasco because I HAVE to have a car to get to-and-from work and it’s now been over a week with my car in the shop and it still isn’t fixed. But my warranty only covers 7 days max in a rental, so I’ve switched to a Ford rental vehicle and am trying to get Ford to cover the remainder of my days in a rental due to their issue (the Ford issue is actually what rendered my vehicle un-drivable). It’s been a whole mess and is taking up way too many hours in my day. And it will likely end up costing me some money after-all, not only for the warranty deductible, but if I end up having to pay for the rental (if Ford won’t cover it, etc.). Big pain-in-the-butt. But there are worse things in life and, again, I’m thankful no one got hurt and that we had the warranty, etc.

Gotta run for-reals now. I’m drowning in work so bad it’s not even funny. So to bring this post full-circle (as I mentioned in my opening paragraph) – I cannot wait for May!!! Is it the summer yet?? 😉

Hugs,

Ashley


Well Crap

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had a major financial set-back. A really long time.

In fact, everything has been going rather smooth over the course of the past year or so. Income is up, outflow is down, we just hit the half-way point in our debt reduction journey. Life is good!

Until…..tax time.

We met with a CPA on Friday. Turns out we didn’t have all our sh-t together so we have to round up the last of our documents and get them over to the office early next week. So we don’t have official numbers, but it’s looking like it’s gonna be bad. Like….possibly in the 5-digits level of “bad.” Yeah. We may owe the IRS to the tune of over $10,000. How the f do we owe so much? I don’t even know where to begin.  I  thought my payments through my full-time job would help offset things more than they did. Clearly.

We have a LOT of deductions to claim. We also have tax credits we can claim. We’re not out of hope.

But it felt like I’d been punched in the gut after our CPA meeting. We don’t have $10,000. Not in cash. To owe that much would officially move us BACKWARD in our debt progression. The first backward movement since we started our debt payoff process nearly 3 years ago. We’ve had months of stagnation, but we’ve never gone BACKWARD. Never ADDED to our debt (mortgage not included). But my plan (to have cash or put it on a credit card to buy us an extra month) isn’t going to work if we’re talking about that much money.

We’re scrambling to think of a plan so we can pay with cash and not have to set up a payment plan (accompanied by penalties and interest) with the IRS.

In the meantime, we’ll be having another meeting (or two) with the CPA to figure out exact numbers and the best course of action. I’ve also suspended all non-essential debt-payments so we can pile up some cash. Unfortunately, given my recent agreement with the medical bill place, I’m committed to minimum sized payments of $1215/month through April. That, in addition to my minimum student loan payments, puts us at a minimum of about $2000/month. We’ve only been budgeting $3,000/month toward debt and having a minimum payment of $2000 only leaves us about $1,000/month of “wiggle room” to try to stockpile cash for our upcoming IRS debt payment. It’s not nearly enough. Particularly if we owe in the tens of thousands of dollars. omg. Just saying it makes me sick to my stomach. I hope to God it doesn’t turn out that bad. But, as the saying goes, hope for the best and plan for the worst. So all non-essential spending is DONE. In the meantime, we will hoard and stockpile money as best as we can. We do have an EF ($5,500) and a couple various savings accounts. Though it’s a bit like stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It’s certainly not ideal. But neither is the thought of acquiring more debt. It gives me a headache to even consider the thought.

Many of you had warned that we should beef up our EF now that we’re homeowners. This wasn’t the intended purpose (most commenters were thinking more in-line with needing to repair/replace an old roof or HVAC, etc.)….but now that we’re in this situation, it’s sure making me think about how great it would be to have a full $10,000 EF. This IRS tax problem would be solved (and then the “problem” of re-stocking the EF is much easier and less stressful).

So that’s my “well crap” update. I will bring you a February debt-update (which, as mentioned, is lower than the originally planned $3,000 due to the need to save all non-essential payments for our upcoming tax bill). In the meantime, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hoping for the best. Preparing for the worst. Ugh!


Ashley’s 2016 Taxes

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Happy Tax Day, friends!

 

Taxes around here have never been fun. Since hubs is self-employed (and until last summer I was working contracted jobs where taxes weren’t withdrawn from paychecks), taxes are always a bit….dicey.

To be fair, we DO make estimated quarterly tax payments. We also make strategic donations that will allow us to take advantage of Arizona’s tax credit (to cover any state income tax liability).

And immediately as soon as I began working full time (started in July 2015), I began deducting HUGE amounts of my paycheck. Like, my net pay is literally half of my gross pay.

I try to take out as much as possible pre-tax:

  • Retirement contributions to our 401(k) (<note, I feel like I call it something different every time I mention it. I looked it up and the mandatory 7% is technically invested into a 401(a). On top of that, I invest another 3% in 403(b) through work. From this point forward, I’ll just refer to this as 401(k) contributions for simplicity’s sake). The mandatory 7% + extra 3% means 10% of my pay is gone right off the top.
  • Medical and dental insurance.
  • Medical savings into a flexible spending account (pre-tax money to be used only for medical purposes, which also includes covering dental work).
  • Childcare savings into a flexible spending account (again, pre-tax money that can only be used for childcare purposes).
  • Parking permit. I have to pay for a faculty parking permit, which is auto-deducted from my paycheck. I double-checked and, yes, even this is listed as being deducted pre-tax.

But even with all this stuff to help offset the tax burden…we still usually end up owing money (ahem….technically prior to the job all we did was the estimated quarterly taxes + Arizona tax credit program. But you get the idea).

Last year we ended up owing big time. To the tune of $3,500. Remember that? Not fun.

We were pretty nervous when the time came for taxes to be calculated this year. Given the new job (and all the additional withholdings/taxes), we had no idea what to expect. We’d continued making estimated quarterly payments on hubs’ income (albeit probably a bit meager compared to where they should have been), but given our giant bill last year it was a bit of a hold-your-breath situation to finally get them sorted out this year.

And – drumroll please –

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We’re officially among the nearly 80% of Americans to receive a tax refund this year!!!! (statistic source).

According to the IRS’s website, the average refund is nearly $3,000 (source). We aren’t anywhere near that figure (we’re receiving under $1,000), but I’m just thrilled to not owe money this year!!! Hallelujah! Last year I made a big deal about not over-paying taxes because it’s essentially an interest-free “loan” to the government until you receive the tax refund. But at that time, several commenters mentioned relying on the refund as though it was a big bonus from work or something similar. I still prefer not over-paying by a large amount (but to each his own, and I can appreciate differing perspectives), so I thought our refund amount was pretty incredible. Our refund is coming mostly from charitable donations we made in order to receive the Arizona tax credit. We pay up to the maximum amount allowed by state, with full knowledge that it would probably be well over our income tax liability and would, therefore, be returned as a tax refund. I LOVE this about our state (first state we’ve lived where we’ve had to pay income tax), because it’s kind of a sneaky way of helping organizations we love and feel passionately about. We give them money, then if we over-pay (which we do), the government reimburses us (not the program, itself). Charitable program still gets their money, so no harm done to them. It’s kind of like picking where we want our tax money to go (on a state level). I’m no tax expert and many stipulations apply, so if you’re curious about it then I’d encourage you to do some research and meet with an accountant or other tax professional. Anywho – that’s where most of our refund is coming from, along with a little overage being returned to us from the federal government for an over-payment of taxes there.

It really puts my mind at ease to know we didn’t have to scramble this month to set up a payment plan or magically pull $3500 from our butts (like we did last year). As our cruise is on the near horizon, I was worried whether we’d have to “borrow” from the cruise fund in order to pay taxes, etc. etc. etc. But, alas, all is well in the world and we continue on with only student loan debts remaining. No “new” tax or IRS-related debts to report. : )

How did tax day go for your and your family this year? Have you filed an extension or working furiously this evening to get taxes wrapped up? Did you get a refund weeks ago? I hope your taxes worked out as well as ours did this year!


Paycheck Blunder

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I was oh-so-excited for my very first 2-week paycheck that was direct deposited into my account on Friday. I was giddy as a child on Christmas morning opening up my bank account information online only to discover…

I got paid nearly the same for my TWO weeks of work as I did on my last check for ONE week of work (in full honesty, this check was about $80 more than last time’s check…but for a full extra WEEK of work!!!)

My jaw dropped when I saw the deposit.

IMMEDIATELY I logged into my school account to view my paycheck and find out what happened.

And, as it turns out, it’s a combination of things.

First, I hadn’t elected my benefits yet in time to have them withdrawn from my last check. The only withholding it contained was the mandatory 401(a) contribution and my taxes. In contrast, this check had OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS of deductions (not even including taxes)!!! Ouch! I elected for a LOT of things to be withheld, including: my mandatory 7% 401(a) contribution plus an additional contribution to bring me up to 10% withheld; all our medical, dental, and vision insurances, taxes, and the BIG one is the FSA for dependent child care to the tune of $500/paycheck. That one will serve me in the long-run because it allows me to pay for childcare with pre-tax money. But it still hurts to have that all added up to be over half my paycheck!!! (also, side note: the max I can contribute to the FSA is $5,000/year. So this level of withholding allows me to use $5,000 pre-tax toward childcare in 2015, then I’ll start over again in 2016. Once I hit the $5,000 max limit these withholdings will disappear and I’ll have to pay remaining childcare costs with after-tax money)

Only…those deductions shouldn’t equate to half my paycheck!

After a more careful inspection of my paycheck I realized I’m getting paid the wrong amount!!!

I’d been hired at ($X) over a 9-month contract. That way I can either take summers off or, if there’s additional work, I can get paid extra to work over the summer (essentially securing a 25% “raise” by working over the summer). When I was hired the business manager said that most faculty members prefer to have their pay spread over a full 12 months so they don’t go without pay over the summer. She could show me how to do that. I said thanks, but never pursued it. In my own mind, I’d rather get my money up front within the 9 months. Hubs still gets paid over summer, we could set up some type of “savings” to set aside some money for summer, or I could just hustle and try to teach over the summer for additional income. But, no, I was not a huge fan of just letting them keep my money and divvy it up over 12 months. I want as much as I can get now, thank you very much.

So when I calculated what was going on it was easy to see. Apparently I’d somehow been opted into the 12-month pay cycle instead of getting paid over 9 months as I’d intended. That essentially makes my income drop 25% (since it’s being spread over an additional 3 months).

Soooo, what would you do?

My knee-jerk reaction is to go to the business office and ask them to correct it. I want to get paid over 9 months, not 12. But are there any great reasons to keep my pay over 12 months? Anything I’m overlooking?

One additional piece of information is that if I opt for 9 months of pay, then I get double-dinged for insurance payments in the Spring semester (in order to cover the unpaid summer months). If I stick with the 12-month cycle then the payments stay the same year-round.

Thoughts?


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