Is Credit Card Interest Tax Deductible for My Business

Individuals and businesses use credit cards every day. Both earn rewards points that make paying for needed items easier. But if you’re a business owner, your business credit card has expenses and fees attached to it. Thankfully, some of those expenses and fees are tax deductible on your business taxes—including the credit card interest. Some business credit cards are better at helping you score deductions on your taxes than personal cards. In fact, nearly every fee you pay on your business credit card can be written off.

Let’s look at how credit card interest is tax deductible along with some other possible deductions. A note: Don’t assume these deductions apply to your personal credit card.

1. Credit Card Interest Charges

In an ideal world, you won’t pay interest on your business purchases. But, there are times when you need equipment, and there just isn’t enough cash in the bank to pay for it right away or to pay the full balance on your card that month. The good news, you can deduct any interest charges you do pay from your taxes. The only requirement is that the purchase that you’re deducting the interest for business-related and made during that tax year.

To determine how much interest you paid over the year for business expenses, simply check the monthly credit card statements from your business card issuer.

2. Annual Fees

The annual fees you pay on your business credit card are tax deductible, which can help justify getting that business credit card with the steeper annual fee that also has amazing rewards. Yes, you can write it off. Remember though that the primary use of the card needs to be for business purposes and not for personal expenses.

>> Looking for a no-annual-interest business card? Check out the Chase Ink Business Cash credit card. Read our full review.

3. Late Fees

Hopefully, you’re not incurring late fees on your business credit cards. Mistakes happen though, and you may sometimes forget to make a payment. If that happens, late fees can be written off of your business taxes. Of course, it’s always best to call the company and explain you forgot and ask if they can waive the fee this time. Saving $39 is likely going to deliver a higher ROI than claiming a tax deduction for a late fee.

4. Swipe Fees

If you accept credit card payments from your customers, you pay a swipe fee to the customer’s card issuer each time. That fee can be from 1.5% to 5% of the transaction total. The good news here, those fees are deductible from your business taxes as well.

5. Miscellaneous Fees

Sometimes other fees are associated with using a business credit card. For instance, if you need cash, any cash advance fees are deductible. However, most financial professionals don’t recommend this expensive way of accessing cash. Do, consider it for emergencies only.

Convenience fees—paid for the “convenience” of using a credit card to pay when the card isn’t a typically accepted form of payment—are also deductible on your business taxes.

Interest Paid on Personal Expenses Is Not Tax-Deductible

The deductibles covered here are for business credit cards and business expenses only. If you use your business credit card for any personal expenses and pay interest on those expenses, that interest is not deductible on your business tax return.

If you use your business card for personal expenses as well as business expenses, review your statements and calculate how much of the interest was for business expenses. Simply recalculate the interest for the total monthly balance minus the cost of the personal items.

It’s always easier to calculate your interest during tax time if you dedicate your business credit card to just business purchases. Keep your personal finances out of the equation. It’s also a better way to prove all your expenses if something comes up and the IRS has questions.

Maximizing Your Tax Deductions as a Business Owner

Using a business credit card is a great way to build a strong credit history for your business. Yes, Virginia, businesses have credit scores and reports too. And maintaining or building a good credit score and history for your business can help you get a business loan if needed someday. It’s also a way to ensure your business has access to lower interest rates on your business loans and credit cards.

And no matter how big or small your business is, if you use a business credit card for business expenses, you can deduct credit card interest charges and fees from your business taxes.

To maximize your business tax deductions, make sure to take advantage of each deduction available to you. If you’re unsure if a particular fee qualifies as a deductible expense, it doesn’t hurt to see a tax professional to make ensure you’re maximizing all the tax deductions available to you as a small business owner.

If you think you’ve been leaving credit card-related tax deductions on the table, it’s a good idea to go through your card statements before filing your taxes and add up all the fees. You could reduce your business tax liability considerably if you’re using your credit card for business use.

This article was originally published January 1, 2017, and has been updated by a different author.

At publishing time, the Chase Ink Business Cash card mentioned in this article is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Source: credit.com

11 Ways to Save Even More Money at Costco

Costco Wholesale
ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock.com

Costco is filled with ways to save, but it is easy to overlook some of the less-obvious perks.

So, if you are thinking about joining Costco — or if you are a member who simply isn’t versed in the lesser-known bargains to be found when warehouse club shopping — the following tips will help you wring more savings from your membership.

1. Know the return policy

Costco membership desk
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Costco has one of the most generous return policies around. So, if you’re ever unhappy with a purchase for any reason, at any point, you generally can and should ask for a refund or replacement.

There are a handful of exceptions to the policy. Check them out at the Costco website.

2. Fill your prescriptions

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You don’t have to be a member to use Costco pharmacies, as we detail in “7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership.”

So, check out the Drug Directory on the Costco website to see whether Costco pharmacies stock the medications you or other members of your household take. If they carry a medication, call your nearest Costco pharmacy for prices.

You may find lower prices than what your local pharmacy chain store charges for the same medications. For certain generics, you might find that Costco’s prices are even cheaper than your insurance copay.

3. Buy booze

seniors dining
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Buying liquor at Costco or most any other warehouse club is generally a great way to save money. In fact, savings on alcohol are among the best reasons to purchase memberships at one — although you don’t necessarily need a membership for that.

As we note in “10 Best Buys at Warehouse Clubs“:

“The best thing about buying alcohol at a warehouse club is that, in some states, you don’t even need a membership. Depending on your state laws, you may be able to walk in and buy discounted libations without paying an annual fee.”

4. Use Ibotta

grocery shopping
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While Costco does not accept coupons, the free mobile app Ibotta offers cash back on purchases from Costco.

If you don’t already have the app, download it and select Costco from the list of retailers to see what cash-back offers Ibotta is offering for Costco purchases currently.

5. Scope out the ‘warehouse savings’

Costco deals
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Costco offers periodic discounts — on top of its already low prices. The retailer refers to them as “warehouse savings,” but they are essentially sales.

Costco offers a new batch of warehouse savings roughly once a month. So, always check out the retailer’s Warehouse Savings webpage before driving to your local club or buying anything online.

You will also find warehouse savings marked on shelves in your local club, as pictured above, although you will have to hunt for the deals if you don’t look them up online.

6. Buy discounted tickets and gift cards

Discounted gift cards on display at a Costco
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Check out Costco’s gift cards and tickets webpage. You will find a swarm of savings on everything from restaurant meals to video gaming.

7. Purchase new tires

Tires
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My family buys all of our tires at Costco, and we love that they throw in free balancing and rotation. Plus, instead of drinking stale coffee while waiting in a stuffy room for our cars to be serviced, we can grab a cheap bite to eat and cross several items off our shopping list.

8. Feed your family dinner on the cheap

Costco food court
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The Costco food court is a great place to grab an inexpensive bite to eat. Where else can you get a hot dog and refillable soda for a mere $1.50? My family of four likes to head there on Friday nights to enjoy a large pizza — it’s only $10.

9. Book a vacation

relaxed retirees
goodluz / Shutterstock.com

Members can rack up savings when they book their getaways through Costco Travel. It offers discounts on:

  • Vacation packages
  • Cruises
  • Hotels
  • Rental cars

Executive Members at Costco can save even more, earning an annual 2% reward on Costco Travel purchases.

10. Get free health care screenings

blood pressure
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Usually, Costco offers free health care screenings to make sure your family remains in tip-top condition. Available screenings include those for:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart health
  • Diabetes

However, screenings have been suspended due to COVID-19. So, you’ll need to be patient to cash in on this perk. When screenings return, you will be able to find a schedule of upcoming screenings on Costco’s website.

11. Buy gas

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Being a Costco member also pays at the pump. Many locations have gas stations that offer competitive prices. Some people buy a Costco membership for the gas savings alone.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Grab These Buy 1, Get 1 Deals on Cellphones While They Last

Excited couple with new cell phones
Photo by Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Nothing beats a buy one, get one deal when you want a new cellphone. Seriously, out of the many types of cellphone deals that exist, the rare BOGO offer gets you the most value.

Cellphone carriers usually don’t let BOGO offers sit for too long, so don’t expect these BOGO deals to last forever. Here are the latest buy one, get one cellphone deals available right now.

T-Mobile BOGO Offers

Free iPhone XR

The iPhone XR is a few years old at this point, but it’s still an excellent phone with a beautiful display and reliable battery life.

You can get a free iPhone XR if you switch to T-Mobile and purchase two iPhone XR devices via monthly payments. You’ll automatically get $730 credited to your account, thus canceling out the monthly payments you would pay for the second iPhone XR.

Free Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

To qualify for a free Samsung Galaxy S21 5G from T-Mobile, you’ll need to buy two S21 devices on a monthly installment plan and sign up for at least one new T-Mobile line.

Once you do that, you’ll $800 in credits added to your account, effectively paying for the second Samsung Galaxy S21 5G.

Verizon BOGO Offers

Up to $800 Off a Second iPhone 12

If you buy a new iPhone 12, opt for monthly payments and sign up for a new Verizon unlimited plan, you qualify for $800 off on the next iPhone 12 you purchase.

That $800 off can be used to completely pay off an iPhone 12 (64GB), or you can get $800 off on one of the higher-tier iPhone 12 devices.

Free iPhone 12 Mini

You can get a second iPhone 12 Mini for free when you purchase the first device and sign up for a new Verizon unlimited plan.

All you need to do is add two iPhone 12 Minis into your cart on Verizon, opt for monthly payments on the phones, make sure one of the phones will be used for an unlimited plan, and you’ll get $700 in credit back.

This $700 will automatically cover your monthly payments on the second iPhone 12 Mini.

Those are the best wireless BOGO deals available right now. Sadly, AT&T isn’t offering any BOGO right now, but these are excellent opportunities if you were thinking about switching to Verizon or T-Mobile.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

You Should Never Buy These 12 Things New

Man with guitar
Luis Molinero / Shutterstock.com

Some things really are better the second time around.

In fact, many used items can be every bit as good as those purchased new. Plus, buying used almost always saves you cash.

So, without further ado, following is our list of the top things you should never buy new.

1. Timeshares

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Don’t ever pay full price for a timeshare. Some people are practically giving them away because they’re so desperate to get out from under the annual fees.

As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson puts it in “Ask Stacy: How Can I Sell My Timeshare?“:

“I’d chop off my own foot with a dull ax before buying a timeshare, especially a new one from a developer.”

2. Basic tools

javitrapero.com / Shutterstock.com

If you are handy, you need a good set of tools. Buying tools used typically will save you money, and you might even end up with something that is better crafted than what you would find new today.

In fact, Money Talks News’ resident thrifting expert Kentin Waits cites tools in both “8 Things I Always Buy at Thrift Stores” and “7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales.”

If you aren’t handy, you might be able to check out tools from your local library when you do need them.

3. Cars

Driver with thumbs up
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

We’ve talked about it time and time again: The value of a new car drops like a rock as soon as you drive it off the lot.

Rather than finding yourself upside-down on your car loan five minutes after signing the paperwork, look for a quality used car that has already taken the huge depreciation hit.

4. Books

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We could take this category one step further and say you shouldn’t buy books at all. Many of us live near a public library system that can meet most of our reading needs.

However, we won’t go quite to that extreme. I personally enjoy having a well-stocked home library. I also realize that some books, such as college textbooks, have to be purchased. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay full price.

Check out “11 Places to Find Free E-Books,” or head to Amazon to find cheap used books, which are often as good as new.

5. Big toys like boats, motorcycles and RVs

Boating
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That advice about buying a used car can apply to any type of vehicle.

Virtually anything with an engine — from off-road vehicles to yachts — will depreciate over time. So, in most cases, you’ll get more bang for your buck by purchasing used.

New boats, for example, depreciate quickly. So, even if you buy a vessel that’s just 1 year old, you stand to save a boatload.

6. Houses

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Your house is another big-ticket item that is better to buy used rather than new. Not only can you save money, but older homes also may have better “bones” than some new construction.

If you love the idea of new construction, remember that an existing home doesn’t necessarily have to be 50 years old. If you want an energy-efficient home with new amenities, you can probably find it at a lower price if you’re willing to be owner No. 2 or No. 3.

7. Movies and CDs

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Many of the same places that sell used books also sell used DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and CDs. No need to spend money for a new disc when you can get a used one for less money online, at a garage sale or in the thrift shop.

Of course, there’s also your public library, where movies and music are free for the (temporary) taking and cheap when the library holds a sale.

8. Sports gear

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Raise your hand if your kids have ever started a sport and quit after one season. I’m right there with you.

Instead of spending tons for new equipment, go to a specialty store like Play It Again Sports and buy used items. You can also scour garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist for bargain finds.

Don’t forget to look for fitness equipment for yourself, too. Buying new weights and kettlebells, for example, doesn’t make sense if you can get used ones for a fraction of the price.

9. Musical instruments

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Musical instruments are another parental purchase that could be money down the drain.

To avoid purchasing something overpriced or broken when buying used, consider spending a few dollars to have it appraised by a local music store. Or, better yet, buy a used item directly from a shop.

Renting an instrument is another option. However, keep in mind that renting a clarinet for three years could end up costing you more than if you purchased a used one in the first place.

10. Jewelry

Jasmin Awad / Shutterstock.com

Jewelry is also better bought used than new. Before buying off Craigslist or from a private seller, however, be sure to get an appraisal, particularly if a significant amount of money is involved.

You can also find quality used baubles by shopping for estate jewelry from jewelers or reputable pawn shops.

11. Gift cards

Gift cards
Iryna Tiumentseva / Shutterstock.com

Here’s one you probably haven’t thought about. Some people receive a gift card to a retailer they don’t like. Others use a portion of a gift card, but have no reason or desire to spend down the remaining balance.

You can find unwanted gift cards by going to a site like Raise. Buying “used” gift cards in this fashion can save you a bundle, as we detail in “How Unwanted Gift Cards Save Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year.”

12. Pets

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Some of you might disagree, but there really is no reason to spend a lot of money on a brand-new pet from a breeder when plenty of preloved (or not so loved) animals need homes.

My local animal shelter and Humane Society regularly have free or almost-free adoption days, during which you can bring home everything from dogs and cats to bunnies and birds. Your local shelter might offer the same.

Unless you’re planning to show your pet, spending hundreds or even thousands on a purebred animal is probably not money well-spent. The $50 puppy from the pound is just as likely to smother you with wet kisses and stare at you with unbridled adoration.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Rent Prices Have Dropped in These 9 Formerly Hot Markets

Women carrying moving boxes
Photo by Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

You may have heard or seen firsthand how fast home prices have risen. In January, home value appreciation was 9.1% higher than one year prior, the largest annual increase since 2006, according to new data from Zillow.

Perhaps less known is this: The cost of renting is affected, too. But unlike with home prices — rising across most of the country — rents are up in some cities and down in others.

Overall, the cost of renting was relatively stagnant in the United States last year, say Zillow economists. The company, a real estate website, tracks and analyzes home prices and rents. The typical rent this January, $1,721, was up just $9, or 0.5%, from January 2020.

But that flat line masks big changes.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and widespread changes to work-from-home policies have also pushed many to reconsider what they want and need in their living space, and where it should be,” says Zillow.

Many workers were freed to work from home and live virtually anywhere, at least while pandemic lockdowns lasted.

Rents in pricey, formerly desirable coastal meccas — especially New York City, Boston and the Silicon Valley centers of San Francisco and San Jose — saw the most dramatic drops in rents.

Below, listed by the change from January 2020 to January 2021, are the nine major metropolitan areas where rent costs are down, according to the Zillow Observed Rent Index. Even with reductions, rents in these metros remain steep:

  1. San Francisco: $2,876 (down 9.2% from January 2020)
  2. New York City: $2,465 (down 8.8%)
  3. San Jose, California: $2,892 (down 7.2%)
  4. Boston: $2,277 (down 6.3%)
  5. Seattle: $1,866 (down 5.5%)
  6. Washington, D.C.: $2,006 (down 3.4%)
  7. Chicago: $1,614 (down 2.9%)
  8. Austin, Texas: $1,511 (down 1.2%)
  9. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California: $2,542 (down 0.8%)

In the rest of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S., rent increased on Zillow’s index between January 2020 and January 2021. These increases were as small as 0.1% in Denver and as big as 10% in Memphis, Tennessee.

A recent analysis by MyMove, a website that helps people relocate, also found that many people who moved during the pandemic left crowded urban areas for (often nearby) smaller cities and suburbs.

MyMove analyzed U.S. Postal Service change-of-address requests filed from February through July 2020. It found that the number of requests for temporary moves — meaning requests from people who planned to live at the new address for less than six months — increased about 27% compared with the same period in 2019.

New York City (110,978 people moved), including its borough of Brooklyn (43,006), lost the most residents to moves, followed by Chicago (31,347), San Francisco (27,187) and Los Angeles (26,438).

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

14 Stores With the Best Return Policies

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The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be leaving few things unchanged. Some retail stores, whether brick-and-mortar or online (or both), are loosening their policies on returns, says ModernRetail, an industry publication. This buys customer goodwill and gives the companies time to process returned products. Other retailers may have tightened previously liberal returns policies.

To help ensure that you and the recipients of your gifts can exchange a too-small sweater or return an extra toaster, consider shopping at stores like these, whose return policies are more customer-centered. We’ve summed up the rules. We link to each store’s policy so you can read the fine print, including exceptions and caveats.

1. Costco

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Selling everything from cucumbers to caskets, Costco says it stands behind its products 100%. That means full refunds on almost anything. A caveat: Some products — mainly electronics and appliances — must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a full refund.

Exceptions include diamonds, which are subject to special terms, and cigarettes and alcohol, which may not be returned where prohibited by law.

Love shopping at Costco? See “18 Surprising Things You Can Buy at Costco.”

2. Lands’ End

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The Lands’ End return policy is short and sweet. If you aren’t happy with a product, return it at any time for a refund or exchange.

The policy says:

“Refund requests received within 90 days of purchase will be issued to the original form of payment when available. Refund requests received beyond 90 days from the date of purchase or refund requests without a Lands’ End proof of purchase will be issued a Lands’ End Merchandise Credit.”

3. Ikea

IKEA
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Thanks to its “No-Nonsense — 365 Days to Change Your Mind” policy, Ikea is one of the best stores for customer returns.

As the policy name suggests, shoppers get one year (365 days) to make a return for a full refund — for new and unopened products.

But you must have a receipt. If you don’t, the store will attempt to locate your purchase in its system. Failing that, you’ll get merchandise credit equal to the lowest selling price of the purchase from the previous 365 days.

Opened products may be returned within 180 days. You’ll need proof of purchase for a full refund.

If you love shopping at Ikea, here some tips: “4 Ways to Save More Money at Ikea.”

4. Bath & Body Works

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If you’re looking for a sweetly scented gift, Bath & Body Works can be a good place to go.

In case the fragrance you selected from the vast selection isn’t just what they wanted, the store has a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Return a product for any reason with a receipt for a full refund. No receipt? Your refund will be for the lowest selling price of the item.

5. REI

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REI is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. The store has a liberal return policy. In brief, you can return or exchange almost anything from the store within one year.

Outdoor electronics must be returned within 90 days. Tip: REI won’t take returns on items for normal wear and tear or damage caused by accidents or improper use. Used gear is covered by the policy, but must be returned within 30 days. REI Store Garage Sale (as is) purchases aren’t covered — those sales are final.

6. Zappos

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You don’t need to worry about buying the wrong shoes online when you purchase from Zappos. The shoe retailer allows 365 days to return unused products and will pay for the return shipping.

So, if those strappy heels don’t look quite as cute on you as they did on the model, you can send them right back. Just don’t wear them to a party first; returns must be unworn and in the original packaging with original tags attached.

7. Athleta

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A division of Gap, Athleta specializes in workout gear for women. Other stores (including other Gap brands) may only take back unwashed or unworn items, but Athleta lets you return anything for any reason within 60 days, thanks to its Give-It-a-Workout Guarantee. An exception: final sale goods.

Athleta covers the shipping cost for returns and exchanges.

8. Nordstrom

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The days when Nordstrom let shoppers return anything in practically any condition for any reason are in the past. But the chain’s return policy remains one of the best around.

It says:

“We handle returns on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate objective of making our customers happy.”

You can return a purchase without a receipt, and the retailer will try to find it in its computer system. If it can’t, customers may show identification to receive a Nordstrom gift card for the current price.

9. L.L. Bean

E.J. Johnson Photography / Shutterstock.com

The L.L. Bean policy says it will accept returned products that don’t live up to customer expectations within one year of purchase. It’s even better for purchases made before Feb. 9, 2018. These are not subject to the one-year limit.

The retailer adds:

“After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship.”

10. Macy’s

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Macy’s once-mighty chain of department stores is in the midst of a three-year plan to close one-fifth of its stores — shutting roughly 125 locations in all.

But many of its stores still are in business. Macy’s return policy gives shoppers 90 days to take back a purchase. Returned goods must be in original, salable condition with the original tags.

Some exceptions are carved out. These include products from certain lines and manufacturers, lighting, area rugs, tech accessories and watches, dresses, furs, foods and beverages, and furniture and mattresses.

11. Kohl’s

Kohl's store
helga-esteb / Shutterstock.com

Hassle-free returns are a Kohl’s tradition, although the rules can be a bit more complicated than the name implies.

An in-store purchase with an original receipt can receive a refund or an even exchange up to 180 days after the original purchase date, with an exception for premium electronics. If you don’t have a receipt, and the store can’t find one, you may get a merchandise credit based on the lowest discounted 13-week sale price of the item.

12. Target

Target
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

Target’s return policy varies, depending on what you purchased, its condition and whether you paid with a Target REDcard.

Most goods that are returned within 90 days, are unopened and in new condition can receive a refund or exchange. Read the policy and check your sales receipt or packing slip for exceptions.

Target allows up to a year to return Target-owned brands or registry purchases.

Using your Target RedCard to make the purchase earns you an extra 30 days to make returns.

Returns by mail are postage-free; you can download and print a prepaid mailing label.

13. JC Penney

JCPenney
Supannee_Hickman / Shutterstock.com

As with Target, JC Penney’s return policy varies significantly based on what you’ve purchased and whether you have a receipt. Here are the highlights:

  • Most purchases can be returned with a receipt for a full refund or exchange. No time window is given. Read the policy to see exceptions.
  • When you return something without a receipt, the refund with be issued as a JC Penney gift card; you’ll get the amount of the lowest selling price in the last 45 days and you’ll need to show a photo ID.

14. Bed Bath & Beyond

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Bed Bath & Beyond promises “Easy Exchanges & Returns.” If you have a receipt, you’re in luck. Returns and exchanges can be made (postage-free) online or in stores that are open to the public (this doesn’t include curbside only locations).

You can take back unwanted goods, with exceptions, for a refund in the original form of payment, within 90 days with your receipt. You may be asked to show ID.

Without a receipt, things get a little trickier. If it was purchased within the last 365 days, Bed Bath & Beyond will try to find a record of the transaction. If they can’t, and you are returning new and unopened goods, you may be able to get an exchange or merchandise credit for the current selling price minus 20%.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

10 Things Taxes Pay For: Where Do Your Federal Tax Dollars Go?

Your taxes pay for a variety of government services, as well as government debt and salaries.

A young Black woman sits at a desktop computer and looks intently at the screen. One hand rests on the keyboard and the other holds a mug of coffee or tea. There is a yellow wall and blackboard behind her and two notebooks stacked on the desk beside her.

The federal government spends a lot of money. In 2019, for example, the government spent a total of around $4.4 trillion. You know that sounds like a lot, but how much is it really? 

For comparison, $4.4 trillion was around a fifth of the total national GDP for that year. GDP, or gross domestic product, is the value of all the goods and services provided or made within the country during that year.

What funds the things the government pays for? Well, $3.5 trillion of that spending was paid for by “federal revenues,” which mostly refers to taxes. The other $984 billion was borrowed. Discover 10 things taxes pay for below to understand just how the federal government is spending those trillions of dollars.

10 Things Taxes Pay For

  1. Government Debt
  2. Social Security
  3. Medicare
  4. Other Health Care
  5. National Defense
  6. Veterans Benefits
  7. Safety Net Programs
  8. Education
  9. Infrastructure
  10. Salaries and Wages

1. Government Debt

If the United States’ government borrowed more than $900 billion in 2019 alone, you can bet the total debt is high. At the end of 2019, it was $22.8 trillion.

According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which keeps a daily national debt clock, as of February 24, 2021, the national debt was as much as $27,932,601,755,468—more than $27.9 trillion. Not sure exactly how much that really is? Consider this—if everyone in the United States covered an equal portion of that debt, each person would need to pony up $84,029.

It’s not surprising that a large chunk of what the federal government spends goes to debt, then. In 2019, around 8% of federal spending covered only the interest on debts!

2. Social Security 

Funding the Social Security program is a big expense for federal taxpayers. Social Security spending is part of an overall government spending category known as mandatory spending. These don’t require appropriation because the spending is mandated by a previous law or appropriation. With mandatory spending, the government funds the programs based on the need—however many people are eligible for and draw from Social Security, for example, determines how much is funded.

Many of the mandatory spending programs started in the middle of the 20th century. As the population has grown, so has the amount needed to fund these programs. In 1962, mandatory spending accounted for 31% of the federal budget. In 2019, it accounted for 61%.

Social Security accounts for the largest amount of mandatory spending. In 2019, the program accounted for 38% of all mandatory federal spending. That was around 23% of the total budget, or about a trillion dollars.

3. Medicare

Medicare also represents a mandatory spending item on the federal budget. It’s typically second to Social Security, and in 2019, it accounted for more than 23% of mandatory spending. This program provides health care benefits for qualified retired individuals as well as some eligible disabled persons. Overall, about $651 billion went to Medicare in 2019.

4. Other Health Care

Medicare isn’t the only health care and wellness program covered by the federal government. Others include Medicaid, which the federal government funds in partnership with the states, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and health care market subsidies. These subsidies are funded under the Affordable Care Act and usually taken as a reduction on how much someone might pay in taxes.

In 2019, all of these other health care programs cost around $450 billion.

5. National Defense

Defense is not included in mandatory spending. It is discretionary spending and it must be included in congressional appropriations bills annually.

Defense tends to be the biggest discretionary spending item on the federal budget. Some, but not all, foreign aid can be classified under defense because that spending is meant to stabilize other nations for the defense of the United States.

In 2019, defense accounted for around 50% of all discretionary spending. However, that was only around 16% of the total budget. 

6. Veterans Benefits

Veterans benefits refers to a wide range of health and wellness programs, financial assistance, and other programs designed to support veterans of the United States military. This type of spending can actually fall under both discretionary and mandatory, as there are VA programs in both categories. In either case, though, it’s a relatively small percentage of total spending.

7. Income Security or Safety Net Programs

Income security refers to federal spending on safety net programs to increase the health and safety of the general population. Programs included under this umbrella term cover, but aren’t limited to, housing assistance, nutrition and food assistance, unemployment compensation, foster care, and certain tax credits.

In 2019, income security accounted for the third-largest mandatory spending category after Social Security and Medicare. Around 16% of mandatory federal spending was in this category. Around 5% of discretionary spending that year was also in this category.

With two COVID relief acts in 2020, you should expect to see percentages in this category go up for that year. The types of spending related to those bills—such as the stimulus payments to qualifying Americans—would be considered income security. 

8. Education

The children are our future—but you might not know it by looking at how federal funds are spent. Education is normally a relatively small discretionary spending item (about 7% of discretionary spending in 2019), and it often includes both K-12 education as well as spending on college, training, and employment services. It’s also worth noting that only around 8% of K-12 public school spending across the country is federal. The rest is covered by state and local funds. 

9. Infrastructure

Infrastructure refers to physical structures and facilities that we depend on to function as a society. This includes buildings, roads, and power supplies. 

As with education, infrastructure expenses are shared among federal, state, and local budgets. According to a report from the House Committee on the Budget, the total infrastructure spending across all these entities in 2017 was only 2.3% of GDP, or around $441 billion.

10. Salaries and Wages

Not including the military and other non-civilian workforces, the federal government employs more than 2 million people. That’s a lot of people to pay, which means a lot of spending on salaries, wages, and benefits. The federal government spends billions of tax dollars to cover these expenses every year.

What If You Don’t Agree with Federal Spending?

As much as we’d sometimes like to pull the plug on our own tax bills because we don’t agree with how the federal government is spending our money, you still need to pay your taxes. Not doing so has legal consequences and could also lead to debt that might derail your financial goals and credit score. 

But you can take some actions if you don’t agree with how the federal government is spending your tax dollars:

  • Contact your legislators. Find your representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate, then contact them about your concerns. Don’t forget to contact your state representatives as well as your US representatives.
  • Use your vote. Vote for candidates for president, the House of Representatives, or the Senate who align most closely with your policy beliefs and who may be more likely to spend money in a way you agree with.
  • Get involved. Learn more, get involved with grassroots change efforts, or sign or create petitions for change.

But while you’re doing all those things, don’t forget to do your federal taxes.

ExtraCredit, Reward Smart Financial Decisions. Learn More

Source: credit.com

How to Get Free Tax Filing Through the Free File Alliance

Instead of this straightforward public service, we have the next best thing: A private system that helps the majority of Americans file a federal tax return for free.
Reporter Jessica Huseman pointed out this frustrating truth in a 2017 story for ProPublica, which resurfaces and regains steam each year around tax time — this year with a bump from a replay of her appearance on WNYC’s “On the Media”.
This part is, in fact, easy. Once you know about it.
(BTW, we are happy to tell you all about those free tax filing services.)
Most importantly: Assume you can find a way to file for free. The agreement aims to make free filing available to 70% of Americans, so the odds are in your favor.
The result is that most filers have no idea the option exists, and hardly anyone takes advantage of it.
To qualify, you have to earn below a certain income limit, which changes each year.

The Free File Alliance MUST Let You File Taxes for Free

We just have to make sure we can find it.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily
“Think about all the things that the IRS already knows about you,” she told OTM.
Filing taxes in the United States could be free and simple for everyone — if only tax prep companies weren’t lobbying to keep it so complicated.
Choose a filing service through the IRS browsing tool. It’ll ask you some questions to help you determine which service is a good fit for your tax situation.
The government has no budget to market it, and the for-profit tax preparers have no incentive to let you know about their free options — and every incentive to funnel you toward a paid option.

How to Get Free Tax Filing Through the Free File Alliance

The problem, predictably, is that no one advertises the free services.
Before you choose a service, read through the requirements for free filing. Some of them cap incomes as low as ,000, or tack on an age requirement or state limitations. A few, but not many, throw in free state filing so you can avoid that surprise charge at the end of the process.
The Free File Alliance is a public-private partnership between a group of tax software companies and the IRS. Nine companies are part of this agreement as of January 2021, according to its recent press release.
The agreement says these companies have to provide the majority of Americans with a free way to prepare and file their taxes online. It also bars the IRS from providing its own free filing system — like that dreamy no-return scenario I mentioned above.
Last year, the Alliance touted “soaring” participation in a press release — a 28% “jump” from 2.3 million filers in 2019 to 2.9 million in 2020. Sounds great, except more than 130 million taxpayers qualified for free filing through the program. That’s a participation rate of less than 2%, exactly where it sat when Huseman called B.S. on the program three years earlier.
Except most of us don’t use it… because we don’t know it exists.
Privacy Policy
For tax year 2020 (what you’ll file in 2021), anyone with an adjusted gross income below ,000 qualifies for free filing through an IRS partner.
From your bank and employer, the Internal Revenue Service already gets a lot of the information you painstakingly report on your tax return. We could, in theory, have a return-free system, where the IRS sends you that information and how much it believes you owe, and you don’t have to file anything unless you disagree with it. <!–

–>




Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She was ticked off she didn’t know about the Free File Alliance and wants to make sure you don’t face the same fate.

19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store

Surprised man shopping for groceries
Bodnar Taras / Shutterstock.com

Do you love your neighborhood grocery store and buy everything you need there?

If so, your local grocery store probably loves you, too. It loves that you’re willing to spend so much on items you could get for a whole lot less money elsewhere.

You can continue supporting your local grocery store, but skip buying these goods there because cheaper options are available.

1. Greeting cards

Woman with greeting card
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Anyone who’s bought a grocery store greeting card has felt the sticker shock — $4.95 for a piece of cardstock with a pretty design? You can do better.

Go to the dollar store and pick up some equally nice options for a buck. Greeting cards are one of the “21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store.”

If you don’t want to make a trip to another store, check out the options on Amazon. Or if you’re the crafty type, make your own.

2. Batteries

Couple in living room using remote control
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Batteries are an essential part of life, whether you’re a parent on Christmas morning or someone who relies on the TV remote. However, there’s no reason to overpay.

Head to the warehouse club of your choice, where you can stock up on bulk packages that bring your per-battery cost down. Amazon also sells bulk packages of batteries, including its own AmazonBasics brand.

3. Magazines

Kinga / Shutterstock.com

A single issue of a magazine at the grocery store can set you back $3 or $4. Or more.

For many publications, you can subscribe to have them delivered to your home for the entire year for less than $20.

There are also plenty of ways to get discounted access to your favorite titles, as we detail in “4 Ways to Read Magazines for Free or Cheap.”

4. Diapers

Baby drinking a bottle of milk
Flashon Media / Shutterstock.com

Who knew it cost so much to cover your little one’s bottom? Well, experienced parents know, but it’s often a surprise to new moms and dads.

Using cloth diapers that you wash and reuse is always cheaper and more environmentally friendly. But for many people, disposables are the only way to go.

Buying them from a grocery store is easy, but you’ll pay a lot less per diaper using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service. It gives Amazon Prime members up to 20% off diaper subscriptions (basically just recurring deliveries), depending on how many subscription deliveries you buy.

If you’re willing to watch and wait for sales to stock up, another option is drugstore-brand diapers. See “7 Things You Can Buy for Next to Nothing at the Drugstore.”

5. Alcoholic beverages

oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.com

Beer and wine are money makers for grocery stores. You can minimize the markup by shopping at a warehouse club instead.

You may not even need a membership, as we explain in “18 Best Buys at Warehouse Stores”:

“In some states, nonmembers can buy booze at a warehouse club due to state laws that regulate alcohol sales. So call your closest club and ask about its policy for selling alcohol to nonmembers.”

6. Toothbrushes

Mom and daughter brushing teeth together,
Creativa Image / Shutterstock.com

Are you really buying toothbrushes at the grocery store? Don’t you go to the dentist? If you do, you’ll find they have drawers full of them for the asking.

Yes, most people go to the dentist once every six months, and you should change your toothbrush more often than that. However, we’ll bet that, if you ask really nicely, your dentist will give you one or two extra to last until your next visit.

7. Special occasion cakes

Kzenon / Shutterstock.com

Getting a birthday cake at the grocery store is convenient, but it isn’t all that cheap, especially if you need to feed a crowd.

Instead, we’re going to send you back to your warehouse club, where you can get a giant decorated sheet cake for the same price many grocery stores charge for their small ones.

8. Pet food

woman kissing cat
garetsworkshop / Shutterstock.com

The grocery store isn’t the worst place to buy pet food, but you can do better.

These retailers are among those offering discounts when you set up automated shipments:

Some pet store chains also offer coupons and loyalty programs that can lower costs, as we detail in “8 Ways to Cut Your Pet Food Costs.”

9. Bottled water

Patramansky Oleg / Shutterstock.com

Unless you happen to live in a city where the water is unfit to drink, there is no reason to buy bottled water.

The water from your tap will hydrate you just fine. Invest in a couple of reusable water bottles, and fill them for cheap at home.

Does the local tap water taste iffy? Buy a water filter or a filtering pitcher, and keep it in the fridge for when you want a cold drink or need to refill those reusable bottles.

If you must have bottled water from a store, buy it at a lower price at your warehouse club.

10. Frozen pancakes

farbled / Shutterstock.com

It is a mystery why anyone buys frozen pancakes. Making pancakes at home is super easy. A basic recipe takes a few minutes to whip up, and slightly longer to cook. We know you can do it.

Cook up a big batch on the weekend and freeze the extras to eat throughout the week. Your cost will be pennies per pancake.

11. Basic baking mixes

antoniodiaz / Shutterstock.com

Let’s take it one step further and say you should banish buying all basic baking mixes from the grocery store. If you’re baking with Bisquick, you really aren’t saving any time if you think about how long it takes to mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. All you’re doing is paying more.

The same can be said for basic cookie, cake and brownie mixes. These things aren’t hard to make from scratch. By skipping the mixes, you’ll save money and possibly be a little healthier, too, because of those mysterious added ingredients in processed foods that you don’t put in at home.

Need a recipe? See “10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself.”

12. Kitchenware

lenetstan / Shutterstock.com

Speaking of baking, the grocery store knows you might need some equipment to cook up all the delicious food you’re buying. That’s why many have a selection of pots, pans and even small kitchen appliances for purchase.

Resist the urge. You can probably find better prices and quality at big retailers stores like Walmart and Costco, or at Amazon.

13. Spices

Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Herbs and spices can be another item leading to sticker shock in the grocery store. That tiny little bottle costs how much?!

If you have a bulk food store that sells spices, you can save a bundle. Not only could the per-ounce cost be less than at the grocery store, but you can also buy only as much as you need. No reason to get a whole jar when you only want a teaspoon for a recipe.

You can also find cheap spices at the dollar store, but the quality and freshness may be questionable.

14. Party supplies

Family Together Christmas Celebration diverse multi ethnic family
By Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Like greeting cards, party supplies are sold at the grocery store for a premium. Don’t make the mistake of getting your candles, tablecloths and colorful napkins there.

Swing by the dollar store and buy them on the cheap instead.

15. Coffee

TORWAISTUDIO / Shutterstock.com

It’s the elixir of life for many people, which is probably why it costs so much at the grocery store. To get cheaper coffee, you have a couple of options.

Your warehouse store — noticing a theme here? — is a good place to stock up on bulk packages of whole-bean, ground and K-cup coffee.

If you have a Keurig machine, you can also register it at Keuirg.com, where they send out the occasional good deal.

Perhaps most surprisingly, you can find low sale prices on coffee at office supply stores, like Staples, for instance. These shops also have online coupons and loyalty programs to help you save even more.

16. Toilet paper

Toilet paper
Gavran333 / Shutterstock.com

There may be no more essential product to family harmony than toilet paper. And it’s shocking how much tissue paper rolled around a tube can cost in the grocery store.

Head to your warehouse club or office supply store for discounted bulk purchases. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service is also your friend here.

17. Light bulbs

Rido / Shutterstock.com

It can cost a lot of money to light up your house. Walk past that display in the grocery store if you want to save some cash.

You could go to a warehouse club for lower prices, but you may find the best selection at Amazon.

18. Individually wrapped snacks

Woman eating cookies with milk
Ivan Cheremisin / Shutterstock.com

You know you should buy the jumbo box of goldfish crackers and put them in baggies for school lunches, but that’s way too much work. OK, fine. Just don’t buy those individually wrapped snacks at the grocery store.

You can get a big box of them at a much cheaper price per serving if you go to a warehouse club. Or, see what your local dollar store has in stock.

19. Gift cards

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Forgot to buy a gift? No problem. Grocery stores have set up convenient displays of all sorts of gift cards by the checkout lanes.

Now, for many of these, you might only pay face value. So, you’re probably wondering why we’re saying that you’re overpaying. That’s because you can go to a warehouse club and get, for example, $100 worth of gift cards to many restaurants for only $80. Different chains offer different options, as you can see by looking at:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com