Invest in I Bonds And Earn 9.62% Risk-Free

Freaking out over inflation?

If you want a nearly risk-free way to grow your cash, Uncle Sam has an attractive offer for you.

The U.S. government announced a new eye-popping 9.62% interest rate for Series I savings bonds now through October 2022 — the highest interest rate ever for these investments.

Series I bonds — also known as inflation bonds or I bonds — are the only inflation-protected security sold by the Treasury Department.

With inflation at a 40-year high, there’s literally never been a better time to buy I bonds.

At 9.62%, I bonds are not only outpacing inflation, they’re earning more than the stock market so far this year — and even more than bitcoin. (The stock market is down 13.8% in 2022 and bitcoin is down 18.5%).

At 9.62%, these bonds offer a rate about 13 times higher than what you’d currently earn from high-yield savings accounts.

And since I bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, your risk of losing money is basically zero. (Historically, the U.S. government has never defaulted on bonds.)

But before you rush to buy I bonds, there are a few things you need to know.

What Are I Bonds and How Do They Work?

I bonds are issued by the U.S. government and they can be purchased at TreasuryDirect.gov.

The interest rate on I bonds adjusts twice a year (in May and November) based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

I bond rates actually combine two different figures:

  • A semiannual (twice a year) inflation rate that fluctuates based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
  • A fixed rate of return, which remains the same throughout the life of the bond. (It’s currently at 0%.)

In April 2022, inflation increased 8.5% year-over-year, the biggest surge in more than 40 years. As inflation keeps rising, so does the variable rate on I bonds:

  • May 2021:  3.34%
  • November 2021: 7.12%
  • May 2022: 9.62%

While new buyers will enjoy 9.62% on these bonds for now, that rate can change after six months. It goes up or down, depending on national inflation.

Pro Tip

Check out this chart from the U.S. Treasury to see how I bond rates have changed over time. 

On November 1, 2022, The Treasury will calculate a new variable rate. If inflation continues to heat up, you could get more interest on your I bonds. If it cools off, your variable rate declines.

But you won’t lose money if the interest rate goes down — you just won’t earn as much. (The I bond inflation rate in May 2015, for example, was just 0.24%.)

New I bond buyers will miss out on the fixed rate enjoyed by purchasers in years past. That’s because the current fixed rate for I bonds is 0% — where it’s been since May 2020.

Since this half of the bond rate is locked in, your 0% fixed rate won’t increase over time. Instead, all the money you make from an I bond purchased today will be interest earned from the inflation-based semiannual rate.

Must-Know Facts About I Bonds

While I bonds are virtually risk-free, they still come with rules and restrictions.

First, these are 30-year bonds. Your cash isn’t locked up for three decades but you absolutely can’t access your money for at least 12 months. The government won’t allow you to cash out an I bond any sooner.

After a year, you can cash it in, but you’ll lose three months worth of interest if you cash out less than five years after purchase.

I Bond Fast Facts

  • I bonds are sold at face value (no fees, sales tax, etc.)
  • They earn interest monthly that is compounded twice a year.
  • The bond matures (stops earning interest) after 30 years.
  • You have to wait at least one year to cash in I bonds.
  • You’ll lose three months of interest payments if you cash in a bond you’ve owned for less than five years.
  • Minimum investment is $25.
  • Maximum digital I bond investment is $10,000 per person, per year.
  • The value of your I bond will never drop below what you paid for it.
  • It’s exempt from state and municipal taxes.
Pro Tip

You can also buy up to $5,000 in paper I bonds per year. The only way to get paper bonds is at tax time with your federal refund. 

Speaking of taxes, you can choose to either pay federal income tax on the bond each year or defer tax on the interest until the bond is redeemed.

You may be able to forgo paying federal tax altogether by using the bonds for higher education costs. Your adjusted gross income needs to be under $83,200 for a single filer in 2021 to qualify for this education tax perk, or $124,800 for couples.

How to Purchase I Bonds

The fastest and easiest way to purchase I bonds is on the TreasuryDirect website. It’s a free and secure platform where you can view all your account information, including pending transactions.

You can also give I bonds as a gift.

Another option is buying I bonds at tax time with your refund. You can buy I bonds in increments of $50 this way. You don’t need to put your entire refund in bonds — you can earmark just part of it.

FYI: You can’t resell I bonds and you must cash them out directly with the U.S. government. Also, only U.S. citizens, residents and employees can purchase these bonds.

The Treasury also offers a payroll savings option, which lets you purchase electronic savings bonds with money deducted from your paycheck.

Who Are I Bonds Right For?

There are a few ways investors can benefit from purchasing I bonds at the current 9.62% rate.

Scenarios When It Makes Sense to Buy I Bonds

  • You’re worried about inflation and stock market fluctuations.
  • You want to diversify your stock-heavy portfolio with a safe investment.
  • You’re nearing retirement and are shifting your portfolio toward bonds.
  • You want to save money for a child’s future college expenses.
  • You’re saving up for a big purchase that’s at least a year away, and want to earn a little interest on your cash in the meantime.

Because I bonds can’t be cashed in for a year, it’s important to keep enough money in your cash emergency fund to cover immediate expenses.

I bonds won’t make you rich. But for everyday Americans, these investments offer a safe way to grow your cash and hedge against inflation.

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2022 Tax Year

Now that this year’s tax filing season is over, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s return. After all, the more tax planning you do, the more money you may be able to save. But proper tax planning requires an awareness of what’s new and changed from last year — and there are plenty of tax law changes and updates for the 2022 tax year that savvy taxpayers need to know about.

Big tax breaks were enacted for the 2021 tax year by the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law in March 2021. But most of those tax law changes expired at the end of 2021. As a result, the child tax credit, child and dependent care credit, earned income credit and other popular tax breaks are different for the 2022 tax year than they were for 2021. Other 2022 tweaks are the result of new rules or annual inflation adjustments. But no matter how, when or why the changes were made, they can hurt or help your bottom line — so you need to be ready for them. To help you out, we pulled together a list of the most important tax law changes and adjustments for 2022 (some related items are grouped together). Use this information now so you can hold on to more of your hard-earned cash next year when it’s time to file your 2022 return.

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Child Tax Credit

picture of &quot;child tax credit&quot; spelled out in lettered blockspicture of &quot;child tax credit&quot; spelled out in lettered blocks

Major changes were made to the child tax credit for 2021 – but they were only temporary. The credit amount was increased, the credit was made fully refundable, children up to 17 years of age qualified, and half the credit amount was paid in advance through monthly payments from July to December last year. President Biden and Congressional Democrats tried to extend these enhancements for at least one more year, but they haven’t been able to get that done so far (and probably won’t be able to later).

As a result, the child tax credit reverts back to its pre-2021 form for the 2022 tax year. That means the 2022 credit amount drops back down to $2,000 per child (it was $3,000 for children 6 to 17 years of age and $3,600 for children 5 years old and younger for the 2021 tax year). Children who are 17 years old don’t qualify for the credit this year, because the former age limit (16 years old) returns. For some lower-income taxpayers, the 2022 credit is only partially refundable (up to $1,500 per qualifying child), and they must have earned income of at least $2,500 to take advantage of the credit’s limited refundability. And there will be no monthly advance payments of the credit in 2022.

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Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

picture of form for the child and dependent care tax creditpicture of form for the child and dependent care tax credit

Significant improvements were also made to the child and dependent care credit for 2021. But, again, the changes only applied for one year.

By way of comparison, the 2021 credit was worth 20% to 50% of up to $8,000 in eligible expenses for one qualifying child/dependent or $16,000 for two or more. The percentage decreased as income exceeded $125,000. When you combine the top percentage and the expense limits, the maximum credit for 2021 was $4,000 if you had one qualifying child/dependent (50% of $8,000) or $8,000 if you had more than one (50% of $16,000). The credit was also fully refundable in 2021.

For 2022, the child and dependent care credit is non-refundable. The maximum credit percentage also drops from 50% to 35%. Fewer care expenses are eligible for the credit, too. For 2022, the credit is only allowed for up to $3,000 in expenses for one child/dependent and $6,000 for more than one. When the 35% maximum credit percentage is applied, that puts the top credit for the 2022 tax year at $1,050 (35% of $3,000) if you have just one child/dependent in your family and $2,100 (35% of $6,000) if you have more. In addition, the full child and dependent care credit will only be allowed for families making less than $15,000 a year in 2022 (instead of $125,000 per year). After that, the credit starts to phase-out.

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Earned Income Tax Credit

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More workers without qualifying children were able to claim the earned income tax credit (EITC) on their 2021 tax return, including both younger and older Americans. The “childless EITC” amounts were higher, too. However, once again, those enhancements expired at the end of last year.

Without the 2021 improvements in place, the minimum age for a childless worker to claim the EITC jumps back up to 25 for 2022 tax returns (it was 19 in 2021). The maximum age limit (65 years of old), which was eliminated for the 2021 tax year, is also back in play for 2022. The maximum credit available for childless workers also plummets from $1,502 to $560 for the 2022 tax year. Expanded eligibility rules for former foster youth and homeless youth that applied for 2021 are dropped as well. In addition, the rule allowing you to use your 2019 earned income to calculate your EITC if it boosted your credit amount no longer applies.

There are also several inflation-based adjustments that modify the EITC for the 2022 tax year. For example, the maximum credit amount is increased from $3,618 to $3,733 for workers with one child, from $5,980 to $6,164 for workers with two children, and from $6,728 to $6,935 for workers with three or more children. The earned income required to claim the maximum EITC is also adjusted annually for inflation. For 2022, it’s $10,980 if you have one child ($10,640 for 2021), $15,410 if you have two or more children ($14,950 for 2021), and $7,320 if you have no children ($7,100 for 2021).

The EITC phase-out ranges are adjusted each year to account for inflation, too. For 2022, the credit starts to phase out for joint filers with children if the greater of their adjusted gross income (AGI) or earned income exceeds $26,260 ($25,470 for 2021). It’s completely phased out for those taxpayers if their AGI or earned income is at least $49,622 if they have one child ($48,108 for 2021), $55,529 if they have two children ($53,865 for 2021), or $59,187 if they have three or more children ($57,414 for 2021). For other taxpayers with children, the 2022 phase-out ranges are $20,130 to $43,492 for people with one child ($19,520 to $42,158 for 2021), $20,130 to $49,399 for people with two children ($19,520 to $47,915 for 2021), and $20,130 to $53,057 for people with more than two children ($19,520 to $51,464 for 2021). If you don’t have children, the 2022 phase-out range is $15,290 to $22,610 for joint filers ($14,820 to $21,920 for 2021) and $9,160 to $16,480 for other people ($8,880 to $15,980 for 2021).

Finally, the limit on a worker’s investment income is increased to $10,300 ($10,000 for 2021).

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Recovery Rebate Credit

picture of a tax form, government check, and one-hundred dollar billpicture of a tax form, government check, and one-hundred dollar bill

Americans were thrilled last March to hear they were getting a third stimulus check in 2021. Those checks were for up to $1,400, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent in your family. (Use our Third Stimulus Check Calculator to see you how much money you should have gotten.) But some people who were eligible for a third-round stimulus check didn’t receive a payment or got less than what they should have received. For those people, relief was available in the form of a 2021 tax credit known as the recovery rebate credit.

However, there are no stimulus check payments in 2022. As a result, there is no recovery rebate credit for the 2022 tax year.

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Tax Brackets

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Although the tax rates didn’t change, the income tax brackets for 2022 are slightly wider than for 2021. The difference is due to inflation during the 12-month period from September 2020 to August 2021, which is used to figure the adjustments.

2022 Tax Brackets for Single/Married Filing Jointly/Head of Household

Tax Rate

Taxable Income (Single)

Taxable Income (Married Filing Jointly)

Taxable Income (Head of Household)

10%

Up to $10,275

Up to $20,550

Up to $14,650

12%

$10,276 to $41,775

$20,551 to $83,550

$14,651 to $55,900

22%

$41,776 to $89,075

$83,551 to $178,150

$55,901 to $89,050

24%

$89,076 to $170,050

$178,151 to $340,100

$89,051 to $170,050

32%

$170,051 to $215,950

$340,101 to $431,900

$170,051 to $215,950

35%

$215,951 to $539,900

$431,901 to $647,850

$215,951 to $539,900

37%

Over $539,900

Over $647,850

Over $539,900

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Long-Term Capital Gains Tax Rates

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Tax rates on long-term capital gains (i.e., gains from the sale of capital assets held for at least one year) and qualified dividends did not change for 2022. However, the income thresholds to qualify for the various rates were adjusted for inflation.

In 2022, the 0% rate applies for individual taxpayers with taxable income up to $41,675 on single returns ($40,400 for 2021), $55,800 for head-of-household filers ($54,100 for 2021) and $83,350 for joint returns ($80,800 for 2021).

The 20% rate for 2022 starts at $459,751 for singles ($445,851 for 2021), $488,501 for heads of household ($473,751 for 2021) and $517,201 for couples filing jointly ($501,601 for 2021).

The 15% rate is for filers with taxable incomes between the 0% and 20% break points.

The 3.8% surtax on net investment income stays the same for 2022. It kicks in for single people with modified AGI over $200,000 and for joint filers with modified AGI over $250,000.

For more on long-term capital gains tax rates, see What Are the Capital Gains Tax Rates for 2021 vs. 2022?

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Standard Deduction

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The standard deduction amounts were increased for 2022 to account for inflation. Married couples get $25,900 ($25,100 for 2021), plus $1,400 for each spouse age 65 or older ($1,350 for 2021). Singles can claim a $12,950 standard deduction ($12,550 for 2021) — $14,700 if they’re at least 65 years old ($14,250 for 2021). Head-of-household filers get $19,400 for their standard deduction ($18,800 for 2021), plus an additional $1,750 once they reach age 65 ($1,700 for 2021). Blind people can tack on an extra $1,400 to their standard deduction ($1,350 for 2021). That jumps to $1,750 if they’re unmarried and not a surviving spouse ($1,700 for 2021).

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1099-K Forms

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Starting with the 2022 tax year, third-party payment settlement networks (e.g., PayPal and Venmo) will send you a Form 1099-K if you are paid over $600 during the year for goods or services, regardless of the number of transactions. Previously, the form was only sent if you received over $20,000 in gross payments and participated in more than 200 transactions. The gross amount of a payment doesn’t include any adjustments for credits, cash equivalents, discount amounts, fees, refunded amounts, or any other amounts.

This change to the reporting threshold means more people than ever will get a 1099-K form next year that they will use when filling out their income tax returns for the 2022 tax year. However, remember that 1099-K reporting is only for money received for goods and services. It doesn’t apply to payments from family and friends.

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Charitable Gift Deductions

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The “above-the-line” deduction for up to $300 of charitable cash contributions ($600 for married couple filing a joint return) expired at the end of 2021. As a result, it isn’t available for the 2022 tax year (it was available for 2020 and 2021). Only people who claimed the standard deduction on their tax return (rather than claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A) were allowed to take this deduction.

The 2020 and 2021 suspension of the 60%-of-AGI limit on deductions for cash donations by people who itemize also expired, so the limit is back in place starting with the 2022 tax year.

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Retirement Savings

picture of a compass pointing to the word &quot;retirement&quot;picture of a compass pointing to the word &quot;retirement&quot;

Here’s some good news for retirees: The IRS updated the table used to calculate required minimum distributions (RMDs) to account for longer life expectancies beginning in 2022. That means RMDs should be a bit smaller starting in 2022 than they were before.

For people who are still saving for retirement, many key dollar limits on retirement plans and IRAs are higher in 2022. For example, the maximum contribution limits for 401(k), 403(b) and 457 jumps from $19,500 to $20,500 for 2022, while people born before 1973 can once again put in $6,500 more as a “catch-up” contribution. The 2022 cap on contributions to SIMPLE IRAs is $14,000 ($13,500 in 2021), plus an extra $3,000 for people age 50 and up.

The 2022 contribution limit for traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs stays steady at $6,000, plus $1,000 as an additional catch-up contribution for individuals age 50 and up. However, the income ceilings on Roth IRA contributions went up. Contributions phase out in 2022 at adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of $204,000 to $214,000 for couples and $129,000 to $144,000 for singles (up from $198,000 to $208,000 and $125,000 to $140,000, respectively, for 2021).

Deduction phaseouts for traditional IRAs also start at higher levels in 2022, from AGIs of $109,000 to $129,000 for couples and $68,000 to $78,000 for single filers (up from $105,000 to $125,000 and $66,000 to $76,000 for 2021). If only one spouse is covered by a plan, the phaseout zone for deducting a contribution for the uncovered spouse starts at $204,000 of AGI and ends at $214,000 (they were $198,000 and $208,000 for 2021).

More lower-income people may be able to claim the “saver’s credit” in 2022, too. This tax break can be worth up to $1,000 ($2,000 for joint filers), but you must contribute to a retirement account and your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be below a certain threshold to qualify. For 2022, the income thresholds are $34,000 of adjusted gross income (AGI) for single filers and married people filing a separate return ($33,000 for 2021), $68,000 for married couples filing jointly ($66,000 for 2021), and $51,000 for head-of-household filers ($49,500 for 2021).

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Teacher Expenses

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For the 2022 tax year, teachers and other educators who dig into their own pockets to buy books, supplies, COVID-19 protective items, and other materials used in the classroom can deduct up to $300 of these out-of-pocket expenses ($250 for 2021). The maximum deduction for 2022 jumps to $600 for a married couple filing a joint return if both spouses are eligible educators – but not more than $300 each.

An “eligible educator” is anyone who is a kindergarten through 12th grade teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year. Homeschooling parents can’t take the deduction.

This is an “above-the-line” deduction. So, you don’t have to itemized to claim it.

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Kiddie Tax

picture of a child dressed in a suit with bags of moneypicture of a child dressed in a suit with bags of money

The kiddie tax has less bite in 2022. The first $1,150 of a child’s unearned income is tax-free if the child is 18 years old or younger, or a full-time student under 24. The next $1,150 is taxed at the child’s rate. Any excess over $2,300 is taxed at the parent’s rate. (For 2021, only the first $1,100 was exempt and the next $1,100 was taxed at the child’s rate.)

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Adoption of a Child

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For 2022, the adoption credit can be taken on up to $14,890 of qualified expenses ($14,440 for 2021). The full credit is available for a special-needs adoption, even if it costs less. The credit begins to phase out for filers with modified AGIs over $223,410 and disappears at $263,410 ($214,520 and $254,520, respectively, for 2021).

The exclusion for company-paid adoption aid was also increased from $14,440 to $14,890 for 2022.

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Bonds Used for Education

picture of U.S. savings bondspicture of U.S. savings bonds

The income caps are higher in 2022 for tax-free EE and I bonds used for education. The exclusion starts phasing out above $128,650 of modified AGI for couples and $85,800 for others ($124,800 and $83,200 for 2021). It ends at modified AGI of $158,650 and $100,800, respectively ($154,800 and $98,200 for 2021). The savings bonds must be redeemed to help pay for tuition and fees for college, graduate school or vocational school for the taxpayer, spouse or a dependent.

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Parking and Transportation Benefits

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Employers can provide a little more to their workers in 2022 when it comes to parking and transportation-related fringe benefits. The 2022 cap on employer-provided tax-free parking goes up from $270 to $280 per month. The 2022 exclusion for mass transit passes and commuter vans is also $280 ($270 in 2021).

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Americans Working Abroad

picture of woman holding a U.S. passport and an airplane boarding passpicture of woman holding a U.S. passport and an airplane boarding pass

U.S. taxpayers working abroad have a larger foreign earned income exclusion in 2022. It jumped from $108,700 for 2021 to $112,000 for 2022. (Taxpayers claim the exclusion on Form 2555.)

The standard ceiling on the foreign housing exclusion is also increased from $15,218 to $15,680 for 2022 (although overseas workers in many high-cost locations around the world qualify for a significantly higher exclusion).

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Payroll Taxes

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The Social Security annual wage base is $147,000 for 2022 (that’s a $4,200 hike from 2021). The Social Security tax rate on employers and employees stays at 6.2%. Both workers and employers continue to pay the 1.45% Medicare tax on all compensation in 2022, with no cap. Workers also pay the 0.9% Medicare surtax on 2022 wages and self-employment income over $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for couples. The surtax doesn’t hit employers, though.

The nanny tax threshold went up to $2,400 for 2022, which was a $100 increase from 2021.

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Standard Mileage Rates

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The 2022 standard mileage rate for business driving rose from 56¢ to 58.5¢ a mile. The mileage allowance for medical travel and military moves also increased from 16¢ to 18¢ a mile in 2022. However, the charitable driving rate stayed put at 14¢ a mile — it’s fixed by law.

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Long-Term Care Insurance Premiums

picture of nursing home worker pushing a resident in a wheelchairpicture of nursing home worker pushing a resident in a wheelchair

The limits on deducting long-term care insurance premiums are higher in 2022 for one age group. Taxpayers who are age 61 to 70 can deduct up to $4,510 for 2022, which is a $10 decrease from the 2021 amount.

The 2022 deduction limits for all age groups are the same as the 2021 amounts. Here’s the complete list of limits by age:

  • 40 years old or less = $450
  • 41 to 50 years old = $850
  • 51 to 60 years old = $1,690
  • 61 to 70 years old = $4,510
  • 71 years of age or older = $5,640

For most people, long-term care premiums are medical expenses deductible only by itemizers on Schedule A. However, self-employed people can deduct them on Schedule 1 of the 1040.

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Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

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The annual cap on deductible contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) rose in 2022 from $3,600 to $3,650 for self-only coverage and from $7,200 to $7,300 for family coverage. People born before 1968 can put in $1,000 more (same as for 2021).

Qualifying insurance policies must limit out-of-pocket costs in 2022 to $14,100 for family health plans ($14,000 in 2021) and $7,050 for people with individual coverage ($7,000 in 2021). Minimum policy deductibles remain at $2,800 for families and $1,400 for individuals.

For 2023 HSA-related amounts, see HSA Contribution Limits for 2023 Are Out.

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Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)

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For 2022, the limit on employee contributions to a healthcare flexible spending account (FSA) is $2,850, which is $100 more than the 2021 limit. If the employer’s plan allows the carryover of unused amounts, the maximum carryover amount for 2022 is $570 ($550 for 2021).

On the other hand, workers can’t contribute as much to a dependent care FSA in 2022 as they could in 2021. Last year, as a COVID-relief measure, a family could sock away up to $10,500 in a dependent care FSA without paying tax on the contributions. But for 2022, the normal limit of $5,000-per-year on tax-free contributions applies once again.

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Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

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There’s good news for anyone worried about getting hit with the alternative minimum tax: AMT exemptions ticked upward for 2022. They increased from $114,600 to $118,100 for couples and from $73,600 to $75,900 for single filers and heads of household. The phaseout zones for the exemptions start at higher income levels for the 2022 tax year as well — $1,079,800 for couples and $539,900 for singles and household heads ($1,047,200 and $523,600, respectively, for 2021).

In addition, the 28% AMT tax rate kicks in a bit higher in 2022 — above $206,100 of alternative minimum taxable income. The rate applied to AMTI over $199,900 for 2021.

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Tax “Extenders”

picture of scissors cutting paper with &quot;tax&quot; written on itpicture of scissors cutting paper with &quot;tax&quot; written on it

There’s a group of tax breaks that are constantly scheduled to expire, but that keep getting extended by Congress for another year or two. These tax breaks are collectively referred to as “tax extenders.”

But so far, Congress hasn’t passed legislation to renew the “tax extender” deductions and credits that expired at the end of 2021. Most of the expired tax breaks were for businesses, but the following expired tax breaks impacted individual taxpayers:

  • Mortgage insurance premiums deduction;
  • Health coverage tax credit for medical insurance premiums paid by certain Trade Adjustment Assistance recipients and people whose pension plans were taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation;
  • Nonbusiness energy property credit for certain energy-saving improvements to your home (e.g., new energy-efficient windows and skylights, exterior doors, roofs, insulation, heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters, etc.);
  • Fuel cell motor vehicle credit;
  • Alternative fuel vehicle refueling property credit; and
  • Two-wheeled plug-in electric vehicle credit.

At some point, lawmakers may swoop in and extend some or all of these tax breaks once again as they have in the past. They sometimes even make the extensions retroactive, so the tax breaks list above could still be available for the 2022 tax year. We’ll just have to wait and see what Congress decides to do with these “tax extender” deductions and credits – stay tuned for future developments.

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Self-Employed People

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If you’re self-employed, there are a couple of 2022 tax law changes that could impact your bottom line. First, a key dollar threshold on the 20% deduction for pass-through income was increased for 2022. Self-employed people (along with owners of LLCs, S corporations and other pass-through entities) can deduct 20% of their qualified business income, subject to limitations for individuals with taxable incomes in excess of $340,100 for joint filers and $170,050 for others ($329,800 and $164,900, respectively, for 2021).

Second, tax credits that were allowed for self-employed people who couldn’t work for a reason that would have entitled them to pandemic-related sick or family leave if they were an employee have expired and aren’t available for the 2022 tax year.

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Estate & Gift Taxes

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The lifetime estate and gift tax exemption for 2022 jumped from $11.7 million to $12.06 million — $24.12 million for couples if portability is elected by timely filing IRS Form 706 after the death of the first-to-die spouse.

The special estate tax valuation of real estate also increases for 2022. For the estate of a person dying this year, up to $1.23 million of farm or business real estate can receive discount valuation (up to $1.19 million in 2021), letting the estate value the realty at its current use instead of fair market value.

More estate tax liability qualifies for an installment payment tax break, too. If one or more closely held businesses make up greater than 35% of a 2022 estate, as much as $656,000 of tax can be deferred and the IRS will charge only 2% interest (up to $636,000 for 2021).

Finally, the annual gift tax exclusion for 2022 rises from $15,000 to $16,000 per donee. So, you can give up to $16,000 ($32,000 if your spouse agrees) to each child, grandchild or any other person in 2022 without having to file a gift tax return or tap your lifetime estate and gift tax exemption.

Source: kiplinger.com

2021 Tax Returns: What’s New on the 1040 Form This Year

Time is running out if you haven’t already filed your 2021 federal tax return. For most people, the tax return filing deadline is April 18 this year (residents of Maine and Massachusetts get one extra day). So, for all you tax procrastinators out there, it’s time to get moving. One of the first things you should do is collect and organize your tax records. If you’re going to file your own 1040, you should also check out tax software options. If you need more time to file your return, request a tax filing extension (although you’ll still have to pay any tax you expect to owe). And, no matter when you fill out your 2021 tax return, you first want to familiarize yourself with the tax law changes that may impact it.

Many (but not all) of the new items on the 2021 1040 form come from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted last March. This Covid-relief bill made changes to the child tax credit, child and dependent care credit, earned income tax credit, and more. Other changes stem from the expiration of earlier Covid-related provisions that expired at the end of 2020. There are a few modifications to some of the main 1040 schedules, too. And, of course, there are the normal inflation-based adjustments that occur every year.

There are many reasons why you should know and understanding these changes up front. First and foremost, it very well may result in a larger tax refund or a smaller tax bill. You’re also likely to get through your return faster if you’re already aware of any new twists and turns. If someone else prepares your 1040, it will be easier to catch any errors when you review the return. But since “Tax Day” is right around the corner, you don’t have much time left to get up-to-speed on what’s new and changed for your 2021 tax return. So take a look at our list below and study up now so you know what to look for before tackling your 1040.

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Due Date

picture of a calendar page for April 18 laying on stacks of one-hundred dollar billspicture of a calendar page for April 18 laying on stacks of one-hundred dollar bills

“Tax Day” is the day that federal personal income tax returns are due. It was delayed the past two years because of COVID-19. In 2020, Tax Day was pushed back to July 15, and last year it was moved to May 17. This year, however, the tax return filing deadline is moved back to its normal spot on the calendar…well, sort of.

Federal income tax returns are normally due on April 15. But this year most 2021 tax returns aren’t due until April 18. That’s because of a holiday in the District of Columbia. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, your federal return isn’t due until April 19, thanks to a local holiday in those states. Victims of certain recent natural disaster can wait even longer to file their return.

For more information, see Tax Day 2022: When’s the Last Day to File Taxes?

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Form 1040 and Main Schedules

picture of a woman shrugging while she holds a tax formpicture of a woman shrugging while she holds a tax form

There are some subtle, but important, changes to the 1040 form itself for 2021 tax returns. Generally, they’re needed to account for changes to the tax laws that are discussed below. For instance, the line on page 1 of the 1040 used for reporting the $300 deduction for charitable cash contributions was moved down on the form so that the deduction no longer impacts your federal adjusted gross income (AGI). This is important because your federal AGI is used to calculate several other tax breaks and obligations. It’s also used by many states as the starting point for determining your state income tax liability.

Lines 19 and 28 on page 2 of the 1040 form were also adjusted to account for the fact that the child tax credit is fully refundable for the 2021 tax year. Line 27 was also modified and expanded (including a new check box) to satisfy changes to the earned income tax credit. (See more about changes to the child tax credit and earned income credit below.)

The idea of having a postcard-size tax form has been totally abandoned, too. We see this in the expansion of Schedules 1, 2, and 3 that go with the 1040 form. For 2020 returns, each of these schedules fit on one page. Now, for 2021 tax returns, they’re each two pages long. The extra length is due to various additions to income, “above-the-line” deductions, extra taxes, and less common credits now getting their own line on these forms instead of being lump together as an “other” item to include.

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Standard Deduction

picture of a person writing &quot;tax deduction&quot; on glass and underlining it in redpicture of a person writing &quot;tax deduction&quot; on glass and underlining it in red

Approximately 90% of all taxpayers claim the standard deduction instead of itemized deductions. Fortunately, the standard deduction amounts you’ll use on your 2021 tax return are larger than last year, thanks to the annual adjustment for inflation. For the 1040 form you’ll complete this year, married couples filing a joint return can claim a $25,100 standard deduction. That’s a $300 increase over the 2020 tax year amount. For each spouse 65 years of age or older, you can tack on an additional $1,350 ($1,300 for 2020).

Single filers can claim a $12,550 standard deduction on their 2021 tax return ($12,400 for 2020). That jumps to $14,250 if you’re at least 65 years old ($14,050 for 2020).

For head-of-household filers, the standard deduction for 2021 tax returns is $18,800 ($18,650 for 2020), plus an additional $1,700 if they’re at least 65 years old.

Regardless of their filing status, blind people can add an additional $1,350 to their 2021 standard deduction ($1,700 if they’re unmarried and not a surviving spouse).

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Tax Brackets

picture of &quot;tax brackets&quot; typed using an old-style typewriterpicture of &quot;tax brackets&quot; typed using an old-style typewriter

The tax rates you’ll see on your 2021 tax return are the same as they were last year: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. However, the income ranges that apply to each tax rate bracket have changed. Use the tables below to find the appropriate tax bracket for your 2021 return. It’s based on your filing status and taxable income (Line 15 of your 1040 form).

Remember, though, that the tax rate associated with the bracket you fall into doesn’t apply to all your income. It only applies to the amount of your taxable income that’s within the bracket’s range. So, for example, if you’re single with $50,000 of taxable income in 2021, only the last $9,475 of your taxable income is taxed at the 22% rate ($50,000 – $40,525 = $9,475). The rest is taxed at either the 10% or 12% rate.

2021 Tax Brackets for Single Filers and Married Couples Filing Jointly

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Single)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

10%

Up to $9,950

Up to $19,900

12%

$9,951 to $40,525

$19,901 to $81,050

22%

$40,526 to $86,375

$81,051 to $172,750

24%

$86,376 to $164,925

$172,751 to $329,850

32%

$164,926 to $209,425

$329,851 to $418,850

35%

$209,426 to $523,600

$418,851 to $628,300

37%

Over $523,600

Over $628,300

2021 Tax Brackets for Married Couples Filing Separately and Head-of-Household Filers

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

10%

Up to $9,950

Up to $14,200

12%

$9,951 to $40,525

$14,201 to $54,200

22%

$40,526 to $86,375

$54,201 to $86,350

24%

$86,376 to $164,925

$86,351 to $164,900

32%

$164,926 to $209,425

$164,901 to $209,400

35%

$209,426 to $314,150

$209,401 to $523,600

37%

Over $314,150

Over $523,600

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Capital Gains Tax Rate Thresholds

picture of a notebook with the definition of &quot;capital gains tax&quot; written on a pagepicture of a notebook with the definition of &quot;capital gains tax&quot; written on a page

If you hold on to a capital asset (e.g., stocks, bonds, real estate, art, etc.) for at least one year, any gains from the sale of the asset are taxed at a lower capital gains rate – either 0%, 15%, or 20%. The same rates apply to qualified dividends. Which rate applies to you depends on your taxable income.

For your 2021 federal income tax return, the 0% rate applies if you’re single with taxable income up to $40,400 ($40,000 for 2020), a head-of-household filer with taxable income up to $54,100 ($53,600 for 2020), or a married couple filing a joint return with up to $80,800 of taxable income ($80,000 for 2020).

The 20% rate kicks in at $445,851 of taxable income for single filers ($441,451 for 2020), $473,751 for head-of-household filers ($469,051 for 2020), and $501,601 for joint filers ($496,601 for 2020).

If your taxable income falls between the 0% and 20% thresholds for your filing status, then the 15% rate applies.

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Deduction for Cash Donations to Charity

picture of a man putting cash in a donation boxpicture of a man putting cash in a donation box

As mentioned above, the $300 deduction for cash contributions to charity no longer affects your federal AGI. There’s also another important change to this deduction for 2021 tax year returns – married couples can now deduct up to $600. For 2020 returns, married couples who filed jointly could only deduct $300. However, one deduction is allowed per person now, which means each spouse can deduct up to $300 on a joint 2021 return.

Note that this deduction is only available if you claim the standard deduction. It also expired at the end of 2021, so you won’t be able to claim it on your 2022 return.

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Earned Income Tax Credit

picture of a bartender pouring a beerpicture of a bartender pouring a beer

Several significant upgrades to the 2021 earned income tax credit (EITC) were made by the American Rescue Plan Act. The biggest changes will allow more childless workers to claim the EITC on their 2021 tax return. For one thing, the minimum age for claiming the credit without a qualifying child is lowered from 25 to 19 (except for certain full-time students). Workers over the age of 65 can claim the credit on their 2021 return, too. The maximum credit available for workers without a qualifying child also jumps from $543 to $1,502. Expanded eligibility rules for former foster youth and homeless youth were put in place for the 2021 tax year as well.

While the modified rules listed above for childless workers only apply for the 2021 tax year, the American Rescue Plan Act made a few other changes to the EITC that are permanent. For example, the $3,650 limit on a worker’s investment income is bumped up to $10,000, and the cap will be adjusted for inflation each year going forward. In addition, certain married couples who are separated can now claim the credit on separate tax returns. And certain workers who can’t satisfy the EITC identification requirements for their children can now qualify for the credit as a childless worker.

Finally, as with the 2020 EITC, you can use your 2019 earned income to calculate your 2021 EITC if it’s more than your 2021 earned income. Since this can increase or decrease your EITC, calculate the credit using both your 2019 and 2021 earned income to see which method will save you the most money.

To calculate your EITC, complete the worksheets associated with Lines 27a, 27b, and 27c of Form 1040 in the instructions for Form 1040. If you have a qualifying child, also complete Schedule EIC and attach it to your 1040 form.

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Child Tax Credit

picture of parents and three children cooking together in the kitchenpicture of parents and three children cooking together in the kitchen

As with the earned income tax credit, the American Rescue Plan Act made major improvements to the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year. For instance, the credit amount for 2021 tax returns was increased from $2,000-per-child to $3,000-per-child six to 17 years of age and to $3,600-per-child five years old and younger. However, the extra $1,000 or $1,600 is phased out for single filers with a federal AGI above $75,000, head-of-household filers with a federal AGI above $112,500, and joint filers with a federal AGI above $150,000. The credit is further reduced under pre-existing rules for single and head-of-household filers with a federal AGI above $200,000 and married couples filing jointly with a federal AGI above $400,000.

Any child tax credit claimed on your 2021 return is also fully refundable for most parents, even if you don’t have any earned income (normally, the credit is only partially refundable – up to $1,400-per-child – and you must have at least $2,500 of earned income). Children who are 17 years old also qualify for the 2021 credit (child normally must be 16 or younger to qualify). Finally, unless you opted-out of the payments, families received 50% of their estimated 2021 child tax credit amount in advance through monthly payments sent between July 15 and December 15 last year.

To calculate the child tax credit allowed on your 2021 tax return, you must subtract the monthly payments you received last year from the total credit that you’re otherwise entitled to claim for the 2021 tax year. (The IRS will send you a Letter 6419 showing the amount paid to you in monthly payments.) If the total child tax credit amount is more than your combined monthly payments, you can claim the excess amount as a credit on your return. However, if the total credit amount is less than your payments, you might have to pay back the extra child credit payments.

Use Schedule 8812 to reconcile the advance payments you received last year with the actual child tax credit you’re entitled to claim on your 1040 form, and to see if you need to pay back any payments (they will be paid back in the form of an additional tax calculated Part III of the schedule).

For more information about claiming the 2021 credit, see Child Tax Credit FAQs for Your 2021 Tax Return.

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Child and Dependent Care Credit

picture of a childcare teacher with two children playing with blockspicture of a childcare teacher with two children playing with blocks

Parents benefiting from the child tax credit enhancements may be able to cut their 2021 tax bill even further because of big changes to the child and dependent care credit made by the American Rescue Plan Act. For example, the maximum credit is increased from 35% to 50% of eligible expenses for the 2021 tax year. Plus, the credit percentage won’t be reduced for families making less than $125,000 a year (instead of $15,000 per year), and all taxpayers earning less than $438,000 can claim at least a partial credit on their 2021 return.

The 2021 credit applies to more child or dependent care expenses, too. The credit percentage is applied to as much as $8,000 of eligible expenses for one child/disabled person and up to $16,000 of expenses for two or more (the amounts are usually $3,000 and $6,000, respectively). That means the total credit amount can be as high as $4,000 if you have just one child/disabled person and $8,000 if you have more ($1,050 and $2,100, respectively, for 2020).

The child and dependent care credit for the 2021 tax year is also fully refundable for most people (it’s usually a nonrefundable credit). Form 2441 is used to calculate the credit.

See Your Child Care Tax Credit May Be Bigger on Your 2021 Tax Return for details.

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Premium Tax Credit

picture of a stethoscope on a medical insurance claim formpicture of a stethoscope on a medical insurance claim form

The American Rescue Plan Act improved the premium tax credit for 2021 and 2022 to lower premiums for people who buy health insurance through an Obamacare exchange (e.g., HealthCare.gov) on their own. The credit amount was increased for eligible taxpayers by reducing the percentage of annual income that households are required to contribute toward their health insurance premium. The law also allowed the credit to be claimed by people with an income above 400% of the federal poverty line.

For certain people who purchase health insurance through an exchange, an estimated premium tax credit amount is paid in advance to the insurance company. If advance payments are made on your behalf, you must reconcile the credit and the advance payments when you file your tax return. If the advance payments are greater than the actual allowable credit, the difference (subject to certain repayment caps) usually must be paid back. However, the American Rescue Plan Act eliminated the repayment requirement – but only for the 2020 tax year. As a result, excess advance payments made in 2021 will have to be repaid when you file your 2021 tax return.

Use Form 8962 to calculate your premium tax credit and reconcile it with any advance payments. Also make sure you submit Form 8962 with the rest of your 2021 tax return.

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Adoption Credit

picture of an adopted child in the kitchen with his adopted familypicture of an adopted child in the kitchen with his adopted family

The nonrefundable credit for expenses related to the adoption of a child is a little larger for the 2021 tax year. For 1040 forms filed this year, the credit can be worth up to $14,440 ($14,300 for 2020). Plus, the full credit is available for a special-needs adoption, even if it costs less.

The credit begins to phase out if your modified AGI is over $216,660 and it’s eliminated altogether if your modified AGI reaches $256,660 ($214,520 and $254,520, respectively, for 2020). To claim the credit, complete Form 8839 and report the credit amount on Line 6c of Schedule 3. Also submit Form 8839 with the rest of your 2021 tax return.

The income tax exclusion for company-paid adoption aid was also increased from $14,300 to $14,440 for the 2021 tax year.

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Alternative Minimum Tax

picture of a wealthy couple looking at their mansionpicture of a wealthy couple looking at their mansion

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) was originally designed to hit only wealthier Americans. However, the AMT exemption amount wasn’t always adjusted annual for inflation – but it is now. For the 2021 tax year, the AMT exemption jumped from $113,400 to $114,600 for married couples filing a joint return and from $72,900 to $73,600 for single and head-of-household filers.

The phase-out ranges for the AMT exemption are adjusted for inflation each year, too. For 2021 tax returns, the exemption is gradually reduced and can ultimately be eliminated if alternative minimum taxable income (AMTI) on a joint return is between $1,047,200 and $1,505,600 ($1,036,800 and $1,490,400 for 2020). For single and head-of-household filers, the 2021 phase-out range is $523,600 to $818,000 of AMTI ($518,400 to $810,000 for 2020). The 2021 range for married people filing a separate return is $523,600 to $752,800 ($518,400 to $745,200 for 2020).

In addition, the 28% AMT tax rate doesn’t kick on 2021 tax returns until you hit $199,900 of AMTI. That’s an increase over the 2020 threshold, which was AMTI of $197,900 or more.

Use Form 6251 to calculate your AMT and file the form with your 2021 Form 1040.

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Tax Breaks for Education

picture of a tuition check with a graduation tassel on itpicture of a tuition check with a graduation tassel on it

Say goodbye to the tuition and fees deduction, which was worth up to $4,000 per year. It was repealed starting with the 2021 tax year.

On the bright side, the phase-out thresholds for the lifetime learning credit were increased. They’re now the same as the phase-out amounts for the American Opportunity credit. So, beginning with 2021 tax returns, the lifetime learning credit is gradually reduced to zero for joint filers with a modified AGI from $160,000 to $180,000 ($118,000 to $138,000 for 2020) and single filers with a modified AGI between $80,000 to $90,000 ($59,000 and $69,000 for 2020). If you’re claiming either the lifetime learning credit or the American Opportunity credit, you must first complete Form 8863 and then attach it to your 1040 form.

The phase-out ranges are also higher in 2021 for the exclusion of interest on Series EE and I savings bonds redeemed to help pay for tuition and fees for college, graduate school, or vocational school. For 2021 tax returns, the exclusion starts to phase out for joint filers with a modified AGI exceeding $124,800 and for other people with a modified AGI of $83,200 or more ($123,550 and $82,350, respectively, for 2020). The exclusion is totally phased-out for joint filers with a modified AGI of $154,800 or more and for other taxpayers with a modified AGI of at least $98,200 ($153,550 and $97,350, respectively, for 2020). You must compete Form 8815 to claim the exclusion and then report the exclusion amount on Line 3 of Schedule B.

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Recovery Rebate Credit

picture of a government check with &quot;Stimulus Check&quot; stamped on itpicture of a government check with &quot;Stimulus Check&quot; stamped on it

The recovery rebate credit is back, but with one important change. As you may recall, this credit made its first appearance on the 2020 Form 1040 and was available for people who didn’t receive a first or second stimulus check, or who didn’t receive the full stimulus check amount they were entitled to.

For 2021 tax returns, the credit is for people who didn’t receive a third stimulus check (or didn’t receive the full amount). Those payments were for up to $1,400, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent in your family. Similar to the monthly child tax credit payments the IRS sent last year, your third stimulus check was an advance payment of the recovery rebate credit. As a result, when you file your 2021 return, you must reduce the recovery rebate credit you’re entitled to claim by the amount of your third stimulus check. (The IRS will send you a Letter 6475 showing the amount of your third stimulus check.) For most people, your third stimulus check payment will equal the 2021 recovery rebate credit allowed. If that’s the case for you, the credit will be reduced to zero. But if your third stimulus check was less than the credit, your recovery rebate credit will equal the difference. And what if your third stimulus check was more than your 2021 recovery rebate credit? You get to keep the difference!

Use our Third Stimulus Check Calculator to see you how large your third stimulus check should have been.

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Tax Breaks for Retirement Savings

picture of a jar with &quot;retirement&quot; written on it filled with coinspicture of a jar with &quot;retirement&quot; written on it filled with coins

Two tax breaks that encourage saving for retirement were tweaked for the 2021 tax year. In both cases, the changes are the result of annual adjustments for inflation.

The first retirement-related change for 2021 tax returns is to the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA. If either you or your spouse was covered by an employer retirement plan, your IRA deduction may be reduced (potentially to zero), depending on your filing status and income. The income levels that trigger a reduction for 2021 returns have been adjusted. For married couples filing a joint return, the deduction is gradually phased out if you’re modified AGI is between $105,000 and $125,000 (between $104,000 and $124,000 for 2020 returns). For single and head-of-household filers, the phase-out range is from $66,000 to $76,000 ($65,000 to $75,000 for 2020).

If only one spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction is reduced if the couple’s modified AGI exceeds $198,000, and it’s totally eliminated if their modified AGI hits $208,000 ($196,000 and $206,000, respectively, for 2020). (NOTE: If you made any nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA for 2021, report them on Form 8606.)

The second change is to the “Saver’s Credit,” which encourages lower- and middle-income people to save for retirement. The credit is allowed for either 10%, 20%, or 50% of the first $2,000 ($4,000 for joint filers) you contribute to retirement accounts, depending on your filing status and income. The lower your income, the higher the percentage you can use to calculate the credit. For 2021 tax returns, single filers, married people filing a separate return, and qualified widow(er)s can claim a 50% credit if their AGI is $19,750 or less ($19,500 for 2020). They can claim a 20% credit if their AGI is from $19,751 to $21,500 ($19,501 to $21,250 for 2020), and the 10% credit is available if their AGI is from $21,501 to $33,000 ($21,251 to $32,500).

For married couples filing a joint return, the 50% credit is available if their AGI doesn’t exceed $39,500 ($39,000 for 2020), the 20% credit is available if their AGI is from $39,501 to $43,000 ($39,001 to $42,500 for 2020), and the 10% credit is available if their AGI is from $43,001 to $66,000 ($42,501 to $65,000 for 2020).

The 50% credit can be claimed by head-of-household filers with an AGI of $29,625 or less ($29,250 for 2020), while they can claim the 20% credit with an AGI from $29,626 to $32,250 ($29,251 to $31,875 for 2020) and the 10% credit with an AGI from $32,251 to $49,500 ($31,876 to $48,750 for 2020).

To claim the credit, complete Form 8880 and send it to the IRS with your 1040 form.

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Standard Mileage Rates

picture of an odometer in an antique carpicture of an odometer in an antique car

For 2021 tax returns, standard mileage rate for business driving is 56¢ a mile – that’s less than the 57.5¢ per mile for 2020. The rate for medical travel and military moves also dropped for the 2021 tax year from 17¢ to 16¢ a mile.

The mileage rate for charitable driving doesn’t change from year-to-year. So, it stayed put at 14¢ a mile for 2021 returns.

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Self-Employed Taxpayers

picture of a food truck owner in her truckpicture of a food truck owner in her truck

Self-employed taxpayers can claim some tax breaks that other people can’t. And some of those tax breaks are tweaked for 2021 tax returns. For instance, the sick or family leave credits self-employed people could claim on their 2020 tax return if they missed work for Covid-related reasons was extended for 2021 – but not for the full year. For 2021 returns, the credits are only available for qualified absences through September 30, 2021. In addition, the family leave credit can only be claimed for 50 days missed from January 1 to March 31, 2021, but it can be claimed for up to 60 days missed from April 1 to September 30, 2021. Self-employed people should use Form 7202 to calculate the sick and family leave credits they’re entitled to claim on their 2021 1040 form.

The income threshold for limits on the 20% deduction for qualified business income were also adjusted for the 2021 tax year. The taxable income threshold is $329,800 for married couples filing a joint return, $164,925 for married people filing a separate return, and $164,900 for all others ($326,600 for joint filers and $163,300 for all others for 2020 returns). Use Form 8995 or Form 8995-A to figure your qualified business income deduction.

Self-employed people who are wining and dining clients can take advantage of another perk for both the 2021 and 2022 tax years. The deduction for business meals at a restaurant is increased from 50% to 100%. This deduction is claimed on Line 24b of Schedule C.

If a self-employed person had a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiven in 2021, the canceled debt is not taxable income and doesn’t have to be reported on Form 1040. However, if you have tax-exempt income resulting from the discharge of a PPP loan last year, you must attach a statement to your 2021 tax return that includes certain information related to your PPP loan (see the instructions to Form 1040 for details). You should also write “RP2021-48” at the top of the statement.

Unfortunately, there are also a couple of negative changes that may increase the 2021 tax bill for some self-employed taxpayers. First, none of the self-employment taxes owed for the 2021 tax year can be deferred as they could on 2020 returns. In fact, half of any 2020 tax deferred had to be paid by the end of 2021, while the rest is due by the end of 2022. Second, the cap on deductible business losses is back after being suspended for the 2018 to 2020 tax years. For 2021 tax returns, the inflation-adjusted limit is $262,000 ($524,000 for married couples filing a joint return). Form 461 is used to calculate a self-employed taxpayer’s limitation on business losses.

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Unemployment Benefits

picture of an unemployment benefits application formpicture of an unemployment benefits application form

The $10,200 exemption for unemployment compensation in effect for the 2020 tax year is no more. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, which authorized the exemption for families with a federal AGI less than $150,000, the tax break was for one year only.

As a result, any unemployment compensation you received last year will be fully taxed on your 2021 tax return. Report the benefits on Line 7 of Schedule 1.

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Long-Term Care Insurance Deduction

picture of a nurse helping an elderly resident of a nursing homepicture of a nurse helping an elderly resident of a nursing home

If you’re paying for long-term care insurance, you might be able to deduct a portion of your premiums – and the deduction maximums, which are based on age, are higher for the 2021 tax year. Taxpayers age 71 or older can deduct up to $5,640 per person on their 2021 tax return ($5,430 for 2020). If you’re 61 to 70 years old, you can deduct as much as $4,520 of your premiums ($4,350 for 2020). Anyone 51 to 60 years old can write-off up to $1,690 ($1,630 for 2020). For people 41 to 50 years of age, the max is $850 ($810 for 2020). And, finally, the maximum deduction is $450 if you’re 40 or younger ($430 for 2020).

Long-term care insurance premiums are only deductible as medical expenses for most people, which means they must itemize deductions on Schedule A to claim the tax break. However, self-employed people can deduct their premiums on Line 17 of Schedule 1 without having to itemize.

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Student Loan Discharge

picture of a blackboard with &quot;student loan debt relief&quot; written on itpicture of a blackboard with &quot;student loan debt relief&quot; written on it

Before the 2021 tax year, canceled or forgiven student loan debt was considered taxable income. However, from 2021 to 2025, most canceled student loan debt that was incurred for a post-secondary education is tax-free. Therefore, you shouldn’t report qualified student loan debt that was canceled last year on Line 8c of Schedule 1.

The IRS has also told lenders and student loan servicer providers not to file Form 1099-C or submit payee statements for qualified student loan debt that’s discharged, canceled, or otherwise forgiven through 2025. So, if you do receive a 1099-C form reporting discharged student loan debt that you believe is not taxable, contact the lender or loan service provider that issued the form and ask them to send a corrected form.

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Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

picture of a man holding a U.S. passport while standing on a map of the worldpicture of a man holding a U.S. passport while standing on a map of the world

Americans working abroad may be able to exclude all or a portion of their foreign-earned income from taxable income on their U.S. tax return. For 2021 returns, the maximum exclusion amount is $1,100 higher than it was for the 2020 tax year – it jumped from $107,600 to $108,700.

In addition to the foreign earned income exclusion, taxpayers living abroad may also be able to claim an exclusion or deduction for their foreign housing. For the 2021 tax year, the maximum foreign housing exclusion is generally $15,218 ($15,064 for 2020), although it can be higher in certain high-cost areas.

Use Form 2555 to figure both your foreign earned income exclusion and foreign housing exclusion/deduction.

Source: kiplinger.com

Where to Find Yield in 2022

It is daunting to expect a big profit, or even any profit, over the next several months from standard bonds or bond funds. Breaking even would be acceptable while interest rates and inflation churn. But as I consider 2022, I aver that the economy is marking time until an inevitable return to its pre-pandemic formula of 2% growth, 2% inflation and 2% long-term interest rates, which may land at 2.5% post-COVID. That’s a beneficial backdrop for plenty of income-paying investments, and now is a good time to accumulate income investments that zig when growth and inflation also zig.

I looked up 2021 returns (through November 5) for 15 of my most-trusted funds and trusts. The three most successful were Pimco Corporate & Income Strategy (symbol PCN), BNY Mellon Municipal Bond Infrastructure (DMB) and Nuveen Preferred and Income Term (JPI), with respective total returns of 15.3%, 10.3% and 9.8%. I continue to endorse all three. I am sold on the appeal of leveraged closed-end debt funds and also see no end to the popularity of junk bonds and floating-rate bank loan funds. All of them benefit from economic vigor; the tendency for debt-ratings upgrades; the unusually low incidence of bond defaults and loan delinquencies; and the phenomenal amount of cash out there seeking any reasonable yield. If you value the Treasury’s full faith and credit, in­flation-linked Series I savings bonds are paying 7.12% until May because of the spike in the consumer price index. The yield will then reset, but the bonds will remain attractive. In addition, explore the following asset classes for 2022, using ETFs or closed-ends if you prefer them to individual securities:

Floating-rate bank loan funds. Fidelity Floating Rate High Income (FFRHX) is the best-known; Invesco Senior Loan (BKLN) is a cromulent ETF and one of the Kiplinger ETF 20, the list of our favorite exchange-traded funds. Keep these well fed if you already own them.

High-yield bonds. Vanguard’s offerings have the low-expense-ratio edge, but spreading money among a few managers makes sense. I prefer active management to indexing. New junk-bond yields have contracted to 4%, but capital gains can pad this.

Preferred stocks. New offerings number about one a week and offer yields of about 5%. Or try closed-end funds such as Flaherty & Crumrine Preferred Income Fund (PFD) and pounce when the premiums to net asset value tighten. Six-month-old Fidelity Preferred Securities & Income ETF (FPFD) shows great promise.

Short-term, high-rate lenders. Ready Capital (RC, $16) finances small commercial loans and mortgages; the stock yields north of 10%. RiverNorth Specialty Finance (RSF, $20) invests in an array of debt, including small-business loans. It is an interval fund; you buy it as you would a regular mutual fund but can only sell quarterly. The design lets managers hold rare or unusual high-income investments. Distributions run about 8%, cushioning share-price gyrations.

Taxable muni­cipals. These are my pick for cautious savers. These high-coupon munis sagged early in 2021 but are reviving of late. Invesco Taxable Municipal Bond ETF (BAB) distributes close to 3%, and all its bonds are rated A or better.

Source: kiplinger.com

Earn 7% Risk-Free on Your Savings With Government I Bonds

You won’t lose money if the interest rate goes down — you just won’t earn as much. (The I bond inflation rate in May 2015, for example, was just 0.24%.)
When it comes to taxes, I bonds are exempt at the local and state level.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.
I bonds won’t make you rich. But for everyday working Americans, these investments offer a safe way to grow your cash and hedge against inflation.
You can also give I bonds as a gift.
On May 1, 2022, The Treasury will calculate a new inflation rate. If inflation continues to heat up, you could get more interest on your bonds. If it cools off, your variable rate declines.
FYI: You can’t resell I bonds and you must cash them out directly with the U.S. government. Also, only U.S. citizens, residents and employees can purchase these bonds.
While new buyers will enjoy 7.12% on these bonds for now, that rate can change after six months. It goes up or down, depending on national inflation.

What Are I Bonds and How Do They Work?

Forget high-yield savings accounts and CDs. If you want a nearly risk-free way to grow your cash, Uncle Sam has an attractive offer.
Since this half of the bond rate is locked in, your 0% fixed rate won’t increase over time. Instead, all the money you make from an I bond purchased today will be interest earned from the inflation-based semiannual rate.

  • A fixed rate of return, which remains the same throughout the life of the bond. (It’s currently at 0%.)
  • A semiannual (twice a year) inflation rate that fluctuates based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

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You can buy I bonds in increments of this way. You don’t need to put your entire refund in bonds — you can earmark just part of it.
The U.S. government announced a new 7.12% interest rate for Series I savings bonds from November 2021 through April 2022 — the second highest interest rate ever for these investments.
The Treasury also offers a payroll savings option, which lets you purchase electronic savings bonds with money deducted from your paycheck.
In fact, inflation grew so much this year, the government nearly doubled the variable rate on I bonds (it was set at 3.34% just six months ago).
Because I bonds can’t be cashed in for a year, it’s important to keep enough money in your cash emergency fund to cover immediate expenses.
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But before you rush to buy I bonds, there’s a few things you need to know.
You can tell your tax preparer you want to buy savings bonds with part or all of your refund. Or, if you’re using tax software, the computer will guide you through the process.
Check out this chart from the U.S. Treasury to see how I bond rates have changed over time.

Must-Know Facts About I Bonds

That’s right: The fixed rate has been flatlining at 0% since May 2020.
You can buy up to ,000 in digital I bonds per person per year.
You can also buy up to ,000 in paper I bonds per year. The only way to get paper bonds is at tax time with your federal refund. 

I Bond Fast Facts

  • I bonds are sold at face value (no fees, sales tax, etc.)
  • They earn interest monthly that is compounded twice a year.
  • The bond matures (stops earning interest) after 30 years.
  • You have to wait at least one year to cash in I bonds.
  • You’ll lose three months of interest payments if you cash in a bond you’ve owned for less than five years.
  • Minimum investment is $25.
  • Maximum digital I bond investment is $10,000 per year.
  • The value of your I bond will never drop below what you paid for it.
  • It’s exempt from state and municipal taxes.

I bonds are meant to protect the purchasing power of your dollar against inflation.

Pro Tip
In fact, 7.12% is closer to the historical yearly average of the stock market — typically 10% — than current CD rates.

At 7.12%, these bonds offer a rate about 12 times higher than what you’d currently earn from the best savings accounts.
I bonds might be nearly risk-free, but they still come with rules and restrictions.
And since I bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, your risk of losing money is basically zero. (Historically, the U.S. government has never defaulted on bonds.)

How to Purchase I Bonds

You can choose to either pay federal tax on the bond each year or defer tax on the interest until the bond is redeemed.
That’s big news because Series I bonds— also known as inflation bonds or I bonds — are fetching a much higher return than other conservative investments, like high-yield savings accounts and bank certificates of deposit (CDs).
That’s because the current fixed rate for I bonds is absolutely nothing.
The fastest and easiest way to purchase I bonds is on the TreasuryDirect website. It’s a free and secure platform where you can view all your account information, including pending transactions.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
There’s a few ways investors can benefit from purchasing I bonds at the current 7.12% rate.

Pro Tip
For context, the best annual interest rate for a one-year CD is currently hovering around 0.65% to 0.75%, while the best five-year CDs only pay around 1.2% a year.

Who Are I Bonds Right For?

Rising inflation triggered the new, higher I bond rate. Annual inflation rose by 4.4% in September — the fastest pace in over 30 years, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Scenarios When It Makes Sense to Buy I Bonds

  • You’re a conservative investor worried about inflation and stock market fluctuations.
  • You want to diversify your stock-heavy portfolio with a safe investment.
  • You’re nearing retirement and are shifting your portfolio toward bonds.
  • You want to save money for a child’s future college expenses.
  • You’re saving up for a big purchase that’s at least a year away, and want to earn a little interest on your cash in the meantime.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
You may be able to forgo paying federal tax altogether by using the bonds for higher education costs. Your adjusted gross income needs to be under ,200 for a single filer in 2021 to qualify for this education tax perk, or 4,800 for couples.
However, new I bond buyers will miss out on the fixed rate enjoyed by purchasers in years past. <!–

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Another option is buying I bonds at tax time with your refund.

Retirees, Plan for the Tax Hit From Savings Bonds

The federal tax consequences for Series EE and I U.S. savings bonds are anything but straightforward. Although the interest on these bonds is fully exempt from state and local taxes, the federal tax treatment varies depending on who owns the bonds and, in some cases, how they are used.

Here are four common scenarios that retirees may encounter for how and when the bond interest is taxed.

1 of 4

When You’re the Owner of the Savings Bond

A man uses a calculator A man uses a calculator

Buyers of EE or I savings bonds have a choice when they acquire the bonds. They can pay tax each year on interest earned or defer the tax bill to the very end. Most people choose the latter. They report the interest as taxable income on their Form 1040 for the year the bonds mature or when they’re cashed in, whichever happens first. Deferring tax on the full amount of accrued interest for up to 30 years may sound like a terrific idea until you get the tax bill for three decades worth of interest. Worse, taking the tax hit all at once could push you into a higher tax bracket, making the bill even more expensive than it needed to be.

2 of 4

What to Do If the Savings Bond Is a Gift

A young woman opens a red gift boxA young woman opens a red gift box

Many grandparents buy savings bonds for their grandkids. Provided the bonds are titled in the grandchild’s name, the interest is generally reportable by the grandchild, who can choose to defer paying tax on the interest or report it annually, the same as any other bondholder. For bonds issued in the name of co-owners, such as a parent and child or grandparent and grandchild, the interest generally is taxable to the co-owner who paid for the bond. This is true even if the other owner redeems the bond and keeps the proceeds.

Giving away bonds you already own to a child, grandchild or other person doesn’t get you off the hook with Uncle Sam for owing money on previously untaxed interest. If the bonds are reissued in the gift recipient’s name, you are still taxed on all that interest for the year the gift is made. The same applies if you donate a savings bond to charity. If, on the other hand, you reported the interest as taxable each year, there’s no big federal tax hit coming when you make the gift.

3 of 4

Who Pays the Taxes If You Inherit a Savings Bond?

A son looks at some paperwork with his parents. A son looks at some paperwork with his parents.

What if you inherit EE or I savings bonds that haven’t yet reached maturity? Who is taxed on the accrued interest that went untaxed because the original owner deferred the interest? It depends. The executor of the estate can choose to include on the decedent’s final income tax return all pre-death interest earned on the bonds. If so, the beneficiary reports only post-death interest on Form 1040 when the bonds mature or are redeemed, whichever comes first. If the executor doesn’t include the interest income on the original owner’s final return, the beneficiary will owe taxes on all bond interest once the bond matures or is redeemed.

4 of 4

Using the Savings Bond to Pay for College Tuition

A college student sits at a table with a book open in front of him.A college student sits at a table with a book open in front of him.

One way you might avoid owing taxes on the bond interest is to cash your EE or I bonds before maturity and use the proceeds to pay for college. If you meet this set of rules, the interest won’t be taxable:

  • You must have acquired the bonds after 1989 when you were at least age 24.
  • The bonds must be in your name only.
  • The bonds must be redeemed to pay for tuition and fees at an undergraduate, graduate or vocational school for you, your spouse or your dependent, such as a child claimed on your tax return. The bonds can also be redeemed to pay for a computer that you, a spouse or a dependent uses for school. Costs for room and board aren’t eligible, and grandparents can’t use this tax break to help someone, such as a grandchild, who isn’t claimed as their dependent.
  • The educational expenses must be paid using the bond proceeds the year that they are redeemed.
  • High earners don’t qualify. The interest exclusion begins to phase out for joint filers with modified adjusted gross incomes of more than $124,800 (more than $83,200 for other filers) and ends when modified AGI hits $154,800 ($98,200 for other filers).

Note that if the proceeds from all EE and I bonds cashed in during the year exceed the qualified education expenses paid that year, the amount of interest you can exclude is reduced proportionally. 

Source: kiplinger.com

How to Calculate Your Net Worth

Your net worth is a measure of your financial stability, and knowing your net worth gives you a handle on how healthy you are economically. The way to determine your net worth is simply adding up what you own – your assets, such as account balances and real estate – and subtracting what you owe – your liabilities like your mortgage and credit card debt.

Creating a detailed net worth statement gives you a good idea of where you can do better moving forward. It’s advisable to do this once a year. Our net worth calculator will get you going.

And just in case you need additional help, here are details on how to work your way through the process:

1. Add up assets.

Start with Cash: what you have on hand, what’s in your checking accounts and what’s in your savings accounts. Include any savings bonds and certificates of deposit along with money you’ve squirreled away under the mattress (that’s a bad idea, by the way.)

For Retirement Savings, the value of your 401(k), IRA or other defined-contribution plan will be available in your latest statement or online. If you have a pension and or profit-sharing plans, valuing these can be tricky. A program that will provide you with retirement income is surely an important asset, but it’s difficult (although by no means impossible) to put a current dollar value on income you’re supposed to receive in the future. This will require a spreadsheet, knowing what your pension promises you at retirement age, and then an understanding of the concept of “current present value.”

For Other Investments/Brokerage Accounts, you can draw from your most recent statements for stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other negotiable instruments. 

A business you own could be a potentially significant asset, but it may be illiquid or have significant debt. Furthermore, you will know best how to value it for your personal circumstances.

Do you have Life Insurance or Annuities as investments? Your premium payments on a whole-life insurance policy add to your net worth by increasing the policy’s cash value (the amount you’d get if you cashed it in). Your insurance agent or a table in the policy can tell you the current cash value. Ditto for the surrender value of any annuities you own.

Your Primary Residence is likely to be your biggest asset, so it’s especially important that the value you assign to it be accurate. Don’t list what it cost you or just take a wild guess at its present value. You can use calculators from Zillow or Redfin to get a ballpark estimate of what your home would sell for (consider averaging results, which can vary). But still, check around to find out what similar homes in your area are fetching, or ask a real estate agent for an estimate of your current market value. Same goes for a rental or vacation property you might own. 

While valuing other tangible Property can be difficult, vehicles are fairly straightforward. Consult a car-price guide, such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com  or CarGurus. Their results will vary, so average them. For help in putting a value on a boat, motorcycle or other vehicle, start with Nada Guides. Kelly Blue Book also has values for motorcycles and personal watercraft, but not for other boats. The more unusual it is, the harder you’ll need to research. If you own a rare or classic automobile (or other vehicle) you’ll probably have specialty insurance for it, which should provide guidance for valuation.

Ballpark figures will do for the value of Household Furnishings, Appliances and other personal belongings. It’s best to be conservative in your estimates. One way to do that is to guesstimate that what’s inside your home is worth about 20% to 30% of the value of the home itself. Or make your own item-by-item estimate, then slash it by 50%. Use estimated market value (not purchase price) of Antiques, Jewelry, and Collections. InsureU offers a handy checklist to help you track your home inventory. Your home insurer might offer similar tools on its website or mobile app, too.

You can also try to drill down on the value of some of your more expensive and prized possessions by searching eBay for similar items and noting the prices for which they sold. This is different, of course, than the asking prices, which don’t necessarily reflect value.

WorthPoint is a subscription service that provides values for antiques, art and collectibles. It offers a free trial period. You can also use a Google reverse image search service like CamFind to look online for information about sales of similar items.

2. Look at your liabilities.

Filling out this portion of the form may be painful, but it shouldn’t be difficult. Most liabilities are obvious, and whoever you owe probably reminds you of the debt on a regular basis.

Start with Bills Due. Next, list the sum of the balances due on your Credit Cards. Check your most recent statement to see how much remains outstanding on your  Mortgage, if you have one.  Speaking of homes, if you’ve borrowed against its value, list how much you have outstanding on a home equity loan. Auto Loans and Student Loans have their own lines,  and there’s an extra entry for Other Loans/Debts (a family member, maybe?). List every debt you can think of because whatever you owe is a liability that diminishes your net worth.

3. Behold the bottom line.

Your Net Worth will display the balance: Assets minus liabilities.

Maybe it’s not what you’d like it to be. It’s even possible that it’s a negative number, especially if you’re young and just took out a big mortgage on a house and a big loan on a car. But don’t worry, because you’ve just taken the first step toward starting or revising a budget that can show you ways to beef up your assets and trim your liabilities.

Source: kiplinger.com