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January 24, 2012

Winter Travel Tips

Whether you're traveling by car or air, the winter season can be one of the busiest and most dangerous times of the year. However, if you follow the Boy Scout motto "Be prepared", you should always be ready for anything. For successful winter travel, whether for business or pleasure, prepare in advance the following:

Have phone numbers readily available and make sure your cell phone is fully charged. You should have the number of your hotel, car rental agency, and airline with you. These numbers should be in your cell phone or written on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse for easy access in case of an emergency or a delay.

If you're flying, here are a few flying travel tips:

Fly non-stop whenever possible. Flying non-stop saves headaches of switching planes, or carriers, including the possibility that your connecting flight could be cancelled or delayed.

Check the weather at the airport of your connecting flight. If your destination city is going through a severe weather storm, you may want to re-book the location of your connecting flight. In this case having travel insurance can be a real plus as they can assist you with emergency travel needs including coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, medical expenses, and baggage loss.

Check flight status early and often. Most often airlines will update the flight status at the very last minute when they are sure that severe storms are going to be an issue for flight take-off.

Choose a morning flight. Morning flights are less likely to be cancelled or delayed. Flights later in the day generally face more logistical effects of bad weather which results in more flights being delayed or cancelled.

If you check in all your bags, be sure to pack some extra clothes with you and take it in a carry on. You'll find this very handy if your bags get delayed.

If you're driving, here are some driving travel tips:

Prepare your car in advance by checking the following:
•Check your tires. Rain, snow and ice can make roads deadly. Check your tire tread and make sure the air pressure is accurate for your particular vehicle.
•Keep lights clean and make sure they are working.
•Check your battery. A dead battery is the main cause of breakdowns, so get it checked and replaced if necessary.
•Cooling system. Make sure that the anti-freeze content meets the manufacturer requirements.
•Windshield Wipers. Check windshield wipers and replace them if they fail to fully clear the window.
•Fuel. Make sure you have more than enough fuel for your journey.
•Pack a shovel in case of snow.

No matter whether you are driving or flying, you should consider purchasing a travel insurance plan. Travel insurance can cover you for trip interruption, flight delay or cancellation, and covered medical expenses. As stated above, travel insurance can be a real plus if you are faced with any emergency travel needs. Visit www.ManagingMoney.com for a list of Travel Insurance companies.

January 15, 2012

Preparing for the 2012 Tax Filing Season

The 2012 Tax Filing Season is here! Although your tax return isn't due until April 17th, you should start thinking about it now so you're not stressed out at the last minute. Did you notice the revised filing date of April 17th? According to the IRS, the reason for the date change this year is for two reasons: April 15 falls on a Sunday; and Emancipation Day (a holiday observed in the District of Columbia), falls on Monday, April 16. According to federal law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have two extra days to file this year. Although you may think it's early, the IRS will start accepting e-filed tax returns on Tuesday, January 17, 2012. Here a few key tips to keep in mind as you prepare to file your taxes:

Gather your records. Collect all documents that support the income or deductions you plan to claim on your return such as receipts and cancelled checks.

Consider your filing options. There are many options for filing your tax return. You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax preparer. You may be eligible for free face-to-face help at a volunteer site. Give yourself time to weigh all the options and find the one that best suits your particular needs.

Consider direct deposit. If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you'll receive it faster than a paper check in the mail. Note that most online tax providers offer Free e-filing which will get your Federal refund in as fast as 7 days with direct deposit. Whereas if you file your return through the IRS directly, the IRS estimates 7-14 days for e-file with direct deposit.

If you prefer to file your taxes the old fashioned way using the paper tax form, the following are some IRS guidelines to know which form to file:

Use the 1040EZ if:

  • Your taxable income is below $100,000

  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly

  • You are not claiming any dependents

  • Your interest income is $1,500 or less
  • Use the 1040A if:

  • Your taxable income is below $100,000

  • You have capital gain distributions

  • You claim certain tax credits

  • You claim adjustments to income for IRA contributions and student loan interest
  • If you don't qualify to use the 1040EZ or the 1040A, you'll probably need to file using the 1040. Among the reasons you must use the 1040 are:

  • Your taxable income is $100,000 or more

  • You claim itemized deductions

  • You are reporting self-employment income

  • You are reporting income from sale of property
  • Visit the IRS website at www.IRS.gov for further clarification. Regardless of the manner in which you choose to file your taxes, remember these Key Tax Filing Dates:

    • January 17, 2012: IRS begins accepting e-filed tax returns.

    • April 17, 2012: Filing deadline for federal income (and most state) tax returns.

    • October 15, 2012: Last day to e-file a 2011 income tax return for most tax extension filers and late tax return e-filers.

    Visit ManagingMoney.com for brand-name online tax providers and online forms, including tax software. Keep in mind that most online tax providers offer personalized tax advice for your unique situation and will be able to answer your specific questions. If you start now your tax filing will be much easier in 2012.


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