I don’t exactly dread filing my taxes each year, but I don’t look forward to it either. Since setting out on my own as a full-time freelancer, my tax situation has become significantly more complicated. And it seems like there’s always a new hurdle on the horizon, like trying to figure out whether I should file taxes jointly with my new spouse, whose student loan debt could affect our tax burden.
Nearly every online tax preparation software program advertises a free federal plan that allows users to prepare their federal tax return at no cost. But as legions of frustrated filers can attest, some programs’ supposedly free plans come with severe limitations (such as unsupported forms and schedules) that force users with more complex tax situations to upgrade to a paid plan.
FreeTaxUSA is not one of those programs. Its Free Edition supports the vast majority of IRS forms and schedules, making it usable for filers with tax situations of any complexity. That includes the self-employed, small business owners, landlords, and investors who must report capital gains or losses. There’s no cost to prepare your federal return with the Free Edition, and each state return costs just $12.95.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is not a destination for maritime buffs. There are no steamboats here. Steamboat Springs takes its name from the peculiar sound made by a nearby hot spring, which the first non-native settlers mistook for a chugging steamboat engine.
Steamboat, as it’s popularly called, does have several beautiful (non-navigable) waterways fed by snowmelt from the surrounding mountain ranges. It’s also an acclaimed downhill skiing destination, with Steamboat Ski Resort routinely cited as one of Colorado’s best, and the smaller Howelsen Hill Ski Area beloved by cost-conscious locals and tourists. In the warm season, the rich waters and stunning mountain scenery draw anglers, hikers, cyclists, off-road riders, and campers.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is a beautiful vacation town in the mountains northwest of Denver. It’s best-known for Steamboat Ski Resort, an international destination for skiing enthusiasts, as well as the smaller, more budget-friendly Howelsen Hill Ski Area. But Steamboat is a year-round destination, thanks in part to the thousands of acres of untouched wilderness within a short drive or bike ride from the city center.
If you’re planning an outdoor vacation in Steamboat Springs, you’ll need a place to stay. Here’s a look at the best lodging options in the Steamboat area, plus some tips and tricks for stretching your vacation budget further.
From 1998 to 2013, the number of Fortune 500 companies offering pensions to their employees fell from 60% to 24%, according to The Washington Post. With the decline of unionism and loss of employee bargaining power, corporate managements have aggressively replaced pensions with profit-sharing plans, essentially transferring the risk of retirement planning and investment management to their employees. It is possible that the Social Security program will be similarly transformed, making retirees responsible for investing funds through private accounts. However, the truth is that few people are prepared to manage their own retirement funds – as Howard Gold writes in MarketWatch, “Most investors have no idea of what they’re doing.”
Americans love their cell phones – if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be willing to pay so much for them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household pays $937 every year, or $78 per month, for cell phone service. That’s hardly surprising, when you consider that monthly plans from the four largest carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon – start at $50 and range well into the hundreds.
While these four companies hold the lion’s share of the market for cell phone service, they’re not the only source. For consumers willing to look beyond the big four, there are plenty of ways to stay connected at a more reasonable rate – and you don’t have to give up decent coverage to do it.
Travel rewards credit cards take many different forms. Airline rewards cards offer opportunities to fly for free or on the cheap, reducing the cost of your vacations and business trips. Dining rewards cards reduce the cost of restaurant meals, often a major expense on trips. Many cash back credit cards give you a percentage back on all of your most important purchases. Gas cards literally pay you to buy gasoline and make other purchases at gas stations.
If you travel frequently, one or more of these card types have a place in your wallet. And so do hotel rewards credit cards. Virtually every major hotel company or brand family has at least one rewards credit card. Some cater to individual travelers, while others are meant for business owners.
“Would you like the AppleCare Protection Plan for your computer?” asked the salesman. I had just purchased a new 27-inch iMac at my local Apple store. The plan, available for $169, would extend the manufacturer’s warranty from one to three years and would include technical support, as needed. The cost seemed reasonable, especially since I was spending more than $2,000 for the iMac. I had to ask myself, “Will I need the extra protection?”
I’m always on the lookout for tools that can help me file my taxes quickly and accurately. One of the products I’ve used recently is eSmart Tax, an online filing service owned and supported by Liberty Tax.
eSmart Tax has a free federal filing option for anyone with a relatively simple tax situation, as well as paid plans that support progressively more complex returns. In fact, eSmart Tax actually reduced federal filing fees on higher-priced plans for the 2015 tax year, and the service is still cheaper overall than some better-known competitors. That change, however, may not make up for the confusing product descriptions on its website. Fortunately, eSmart Tax alerts you if a plan upgrade suits your situation once you begin filing. While not a deal-killer for some, if you have a complex tax situation, the lack of clarity can be frustrating, and may be enough of a red flag to prepare your return elsewhere.
As someone who mixes and matches freelance work, contract jobs, and side income opportunities to earn a living, I have a pretty complicated tax situation. Millions of Americans are in the same boat – independent contractors, small business owners, and folks who earn passive income through investing.
While money may be no object to some, the costs of tax filing definitely matter to me and many taxpayers like me. It’s frustrating, but understandable, that business owners and independents have to pay more to file their taxes with brand-name services like TurboTax and H&R Block.