TurboTax Review for Your 2012 Tax Return

Taxes Follow Me on Pinterest The following review is my personal opinion. As a full disclaimer, I was given a free copy of TurboTax Home and Business to complete my tax return so I would be able to accurately review the product through the filing process. 

Now that the IRS has started to accept tax returns I’ve finally got around to starting to calculate my personal return. This year my taxes were a bit more complex than previous years because I now have a side gig which requires filling out a Schedule C tax form.

I have a lot of experience with tax returns as I used to prepare them as part of my job in public accounting firm. For the past few years my employer has always allowed me to use their software to prepare my returns. However, I no longer work for an accounting firm so this year I had to use something new to me.

There are many tax preparation options out there but I decided to go with a big name brand for my 2012 tax return. I know a lot of the tax rules, but I didn’t want to fill out a return on paper. I also wanted to e-file to get my tax refund faster, if I ended up overpaying and receive a refund.

I Am Using TurboTax Home and Business

As I mentioned before, I was able to get a free copy of TurboTax Home and Business so I figured it’d be a great opportunity to try the software out.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the software but I definitely see how taxes can be considered frustrating to the general public now! Without TurboTax, many of the forms could easily be overwhelming but TurboTax breaks it down into smaller steps and more understandable questions and inquiries.

TurboTax guides you step by step through different parts of your tax return. They start with some general information and then ask you about various tax items you’ve likely received throughout the year such as W-2s, 1099-INTs, 1099-DIVs and many other forms.

In addition to asking about forms, they ask you about life events and other tax issues that you may have come across during 2012. What if you don’t understand what they’re asking you though?

There is normally a link to find further information if you don’t understand what TurboTax is referencing. If that isn’t enough then you can always chat live with a TurboTax representative to get clarification on anything you need help with.

TurboTax continues asking questions to finish completing your tax forms. They’ll make sure to ask you about any deductions or credits that you may be able to take in order to lower your tax bill.

Be careful though! You can enter anything you want to into the software. TurboTax doesn’t guarantee what you enter is correct, they only ensure that their calculations are correct based on the information you provided. Make sure to double check the info you entered!

My Take On TurboTax For My Fiancee’s Simple Return

I completed my fiancee’s return for her since she doesn’t know much about taxes. Her return is pretty simple, she had 2 W-2s (income from her job and disability income), a 1099-INT (interest paid from her bank account) and a 1098-E (student loan interest paid).

It took about 15 minutes for me to skip through to the sections where I needed to input information from her tax forms. After I had input information from her tax forms we double checked to make sure there wasn’t anything we were overlooking by viewing the various input sections TurboTax has available.

We were comfortable we hadn’t missed anything so we previewed her return to make sure we hadn’t made any mistakes. We then went to file the return but then found out she made too much money for their free version. Bummer!

File For Free

We ended up using a different IRS FreeFile provider in order to file her return for free. Because she had an AGI under $57,000 she was eligible through another provider. If you fall into the following categories you can use TurboTax for free! Keep in mind, only the Federal version is free. If you have to file a state tax return you’ll likely have to pay for that.

  • Adjusted Gross Income: $31,000 or less, or
  • $57,000 or less, and Active military or
  • Eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and
  • Live in any state or U.S. Citizens and resident aliens with foreign addresses

My More Complex Return with a Schedule C

My return was a bit more complex. In addition to a couple W-2s, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-B and many other typical tax forms I had a Schedule C form to fill out for my side gig income and expenses. The experience was the same as with my fiancee’s simpler return except I had more questions and fields to fill out. There were a ton of questions and fields too.

My return took much longer to complete than my fiancee’s return but that was simply due to my return being more complex. I wasn’t exactly sure on all of the terminology as it had been a while since I had filled out a form Schedule C but the links TurboTax provided gave me more than enough information to complete my return.

Still Need to File Your Tax Return?

I work hard to provide my readers with valuable information on a regular basis. If you still need to file your tax return and would like to try TurboTax I’d deeply appreciate it if you clicked on one of the links on in this post to start your TurboTax return. I will receive a small commission if you do end up purchasing TurboTax after clicking through on one of my links but it won’t cost you a penny more than if you if went to TurboTax.com yourself.

Have you filed your tax return yet this year? What software did you use? Did you prepare your returns yourself or did you pay someone else to prepare them?

photo by: John-Morgan

What to Do If You Are A Victim of Identity Theft

Identity Theft What Do I Do? Follow Me on Pinterest Last week I discussed what happened when I was a victim of credit card fraud. Unfortunately, the night before you read about my experience with credit card fraud things took a turn for the worse. 

Turns out my credit card fraud case turned into identity theft quickly. When I went online to upload my credit card fraud affidavit to my bank I decided to check my credit card activity just in case. What I found shocked me…

The Transaction That Tipped Me Off

My credit card was cancelled and a new credit card was issued. It was shipped overnight to me after I found out I was a victim. I received the card on Thursday and called to activate it via the company’s phone system.

Now that I had my new credit card I knew I had to update any automatic payments I had scheduled on that credit card. I signed in to my other accounts online to update my automatic payments with my new credit card number. I then checked my credit card activity and was blown away.

There was a multi-thousand dollar cash advance in process. It actually ended up being a balance transfer to pay off the thief’s credit card. I was livid!

I Called My Credit Card Company

I immediately called my credit card company to alert them. I asked what this cash advance was a they told me that it was a balance transfer that I had requested to pay off my credit card from another bank… WRONG!

I notified my credit card company that I’ve never had any type of account with the other bank and this was another fraudulent transaction. Luckily the person who initiated the transaction had started it just a couple hours before and the money had not transferred yet.

My credit card company was able to stop the money before it went to the fraudster’s credit card. At this point I was freaking out and knew I needed to take steps to protect myself.

What To Do If You Think You Are An Identity Theft Victim

The first thing I was instructed to do is contact the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion and Equifax and place a 90 day fraud alert on my credit report. You only have to contact one bureau and then they will alert the other two bureaus within 24 hours. I didn’t want to wait 24 hours in case the fraudster was acting quickly.

Essentially a fraud alert will alert any creditor that there has recently been fraudulent activity associated with the credit report. It instructs the creditor to contact you via a phone number you provide before granting any credit.

I called two of the bureaus to place a fraud alert and placed the third fraud alert via the bureau’s website. I learned that reporting online gives you the advantage of getting a free credit report immediately, even if you have already used your free annual credit report for that bureau.

I reviewed my credit report and luckily found no other fraudulent activity yet. I’ll have to continue monitoring my credit report going forward to ensure nothing out of the ordinary pops up.

Contact All of Your Creditors and Banks

I immediately contacted all of my other credit cards and banks as soon as I had completed placing fraud alerts with all three bureaus. Every bank and credit card company will tell you they’re constantly monitoring your account for fraud but letting them know you’ve recently been a victim will put them on high alert.

Another thing you should do is change all of your passwords and pin numbers with any bank or creditor. It can never hurt to be too careful because you have no idea what information your identity thief has.

File a Police Report

Last week I told you I didn’t file a police report for the $19.95 purchase of Proactiv. Well… things have changed. If you have been a victim of identity theft you DEFINITELY need to file a police report.

A police officer came out to my house and took down all of the information I knew at the time, which wasn’t much. He told me that since I hadn’t actually lost any money there was little chance they would look into it as we only have one officer working financial crimes. I guess that’s an effect of budget cuts.

Regardless, filing a police report allows you to show that you have taken action. Once my credit card company assigns a fraud investigator I will relay this information to the police and update my police report.

What I’ve Learned Since Thursday About My Case

Now that things have calmed down I have been able to do more investigating myself. I was able to talk to a fraud specialist at my credit card company and found out that the fraudster called my credit card company to initiate the balance transfer.

They know my full social security number, my birthday and enough about me to answer random identity verification questions without hesitating. This is pretty scary and definitely makes me a victim of identity theft.

My credit card company also has some other information that could lead to identifying the fraudster and should make this a pretty open and shut case if anyone actually investigates it.

There is some other evidence that I’ve been able to gather but I’m not going to write about it now. I don’t want to jeopardize my potential case but I’ll be sure to update you when I can.

I know what I’ve gone through is pretty crazy but there are much worse cases out there. Have you ever been a victim of identity theft beyond simple credit card fraud? Am I missing anything I should do to take preventative action?

photo by: *saxon*

I’m a Victim of Credit Card Fraud… What Do I Do?

Credit Card Fraud Follow Me on Pinterest Credit card fraud is one of those things you hear about but never expect to happen to you. I felt the same exact way and now realize that I was wrong and I never should have felt I was above credit card fraud to begin with.

While I am careful with where I use my credit cards, there are so many different ways people can steal your credit card information these days. It seems it is no longer a question of IF you’ll ever be hit with credit card fraud but now is WHEN you will be hit with credit card fraud.

How To Recognize Credit Card Fraud

Recognizing that you’ve been hit with credit card fraud is the first step. If you don’t realize someone else is using your credit card how can you report the fraud?

This is exactly why I monitor my credit card transactions at least monthly and reconcile my receipts to my credit card statement. Sometimes there are honest mistakes but most of the time if something seems out of the ordinary it is fraud.

Just recently I was looking at my transactions through my bank’s online system and saw a charge for what looked like Proactiv Solution… you know… the acne product you see on TV all of the time. The thing is, I don’t have acne problems and have never once ordered any Proactive product.

What To Do When You Are a Victim of Credit Card Fraud

Before you go screaming fraud, first make sure the transaction in questions isn’t simply something you forgot about or an authorized user charged and simply forgot to tell you about. If you’re pretty sure the transactions are fraudulent then you need to take action immediately.

I called my credit card company to make sure that the transaction was what it appeared to be and they were able to give me a phone number for the company that was attached to the transaction. I called the company and, sure enough, it was Proactiv. It was at that point I knew I was hit with credit card fraud.

I immediately called my credit card company back and told them I had been hit with a fraudulent transaction. They cancelled my current card and overnighted me a new card.

I asked what would happen to the person who committed the fraud and my credit card company told me it goes to their fraud department where they decide whether it is worth looking into or not.

In addition to getting a new credit card issued, you can also file a police report. The main reasons why I didn’t was because it was only one small transaction AND it was an online purchase.

If there were many local fraudulent transactions or a large fraudulent transaction I definitely would have filed a police report. This wasn’t worth my time or effort for a $20 online purchase as the local police wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

What Will Happen to The Scammer?

Since this transaction was only $20 I doubt anyone would look into it because it would cost more than simply refunding my account $20 for the charge. This is a real bummer because it means people can continue to get away with this petty theft while increasing costs for people who use credit cards, whether it be merchants (transaction fees) or consumers (interest rates).

Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? What happened and what did you do after finding out about it?

P.S. – *Last Minute Edit* – Things got interesting last night… it sounds like things have gone from credit card fraud to the potential for identity theft. I’ve been busy and haven’t had a chance to write up the ID theft part but you can bet you’re going to hear more about it next week. Make sure to come back and see what happened.

P.P.S. If you REALLY want to know what’s going on you should follow me on twitter and look back at my tweets from last night.

… so tired…

How Disability Insurance Helped Us

Ducks Follow Me on Pinterest You often hear financial professionals talking about how disability insurance is very important. The thing is, you never really realize how important it is until it pays out the first time. That or the first time that you need it and don’t have it.

We were in the lucky group because  my fiancee was covered by her employer’s disability coverage the first time we needed disability insurance.

Why We Needed and Used Disability Insurance

Bad feet run in my fiancee’s family and this is a problem for her because of her profession. My fiancee is a Registered Nurse (RN). Her job involves standing and walking almost all day (unlike my desk job in accounting). Bad feet and having to be on your feet all day is a bad combination.

Basically her feet kept getting wider due to bad ligaments. This was fine until it got to the point where she could no longer find shoes that comfortably fit her for 12 hour shifts.

We were surprised to find out if her problem didn’t get fixed in time there would be a point where they could no longer fix it. It was at this point that we realized she had to have surgery to fix it before it got worse.

The Problem with Surgery

There is a major problem with foot surgery if you’re a nurse. You can’t work if you can’t be on your feet. There is no light duty option like my desk job. No work = no income… unless you have disability insurance and your surgery is covered OR you have a ton of paid time off to take.

Honestly though, who wants to take PTO to have surgery? Doesn’t sound like a vacation to me! What saved us was her employer offers disability insurance as part of her benefit package. It honestly wasn’t even something we had thought of until this surgery came up.

Well, we didn’t consider it until we figured out she’d be off her job for at least 8-10 weeks. It was at that point we knew we had to come up with a solution.

Disability Offerings From Her Employer

Her employer’s disability coverage was paid for by her employer. It covered 60% of her standard paycheck and increases the longer she stays with her company. On top of that, you could buy an extra 20% of coverage for just a couple dollars a paycheck.

When they began offering the disability insurance we made sure to call and ensure her surgery qualified. After getting it cleared through disability insurance and planning for a good time to get it done we decided to purchase the extra 20% as it would pay out more than we’d pay in. No brainer there.

How Much Disability Insurance Helped Us

Instead of receiving 0% of her paycheck for 10 weeks or saving up multiple years of paid time off just for a surgery, we ended up receiving 80% of her paycheck for those 10 weeks. This was a huge benefit for us. Without this benefit she would have used a ton of her vacation time and we still wouldn’t have anywhere near a normal income.

I also have disability insurance through my employer and definitely understand the value of this benefit now. If I ever end up becoming self employed it is definitely something I’m going to have to look into getting on my own.

Keep in mind, we only used short term disability insurance. If something happened and we could no longer work in our field for the rest of our lives think how much that’d mess you up. That is what long term disability insurance is for and I hope I never have to use it.

Have you ever thought about disability insurance before? Do you have any? Why or why not?

photo by: Minhimalism

Debt Pay Off Update – February 2013

student loan debt Follow Me on Pinterest In December 2012 we decided it was time to open up to you, my readers, and gave our very first debt update.

As a quick review, I originally wrote Our Debt Pay Down Strategy to explain where my fiancee and I are in terms of debt. Currently we only owe for her student loans and the townhouse mortgage.

We just recently got engaged, but we aren’t married yet so we keep our finances separate. We plan on paying off her student loans as fast as we can.

However, we aren’t going to go into crazy insane debt payoff mode where we only eat rice and beans, never go out to eat and cancel our cable. We’ll be taking a more balanced approach. We also do not plan to pay our mortgage off prior to its due date, but that may change later down the road.

Student Loan Debt Update – February 2013

In late January my girlfriend was able to go back to work after her foot surgery. While she was out of work she was receiving a percentage of her income from disability but was not getting her normal full paychecks.

She had saved some money in advance of her surgery and now she’s back to making her normal paychecks again. We were able to take some of this extra buffer from her disability, as well as her income tax refund, and pay down another large chunk of her student loans this month.

Currently there are six groups of student loans that have balances on them.

Private Student Loan 1 – 8.0% Variable

The current balance on this student loan is $6,205.20. This is a decrease of $2,409.90 since the last debt update. We are paying this loan off first because it has the highest interest rate and is also a variable rate. It originally was well over $20,000 when my girlfriend began paying this down after college in 2011.

Federal Student Loan 1 – 6.8% Fixed

The current balance on this student loan is $7,839.04. This is a decrease of $51.86 since the last debt update. This will likely be the 4th student loan we pay off.

Federal Student Loan 2 – 6.8% Fixed

The current balance on this student loan is $7,366.75. This is a decrease of $49.00 since the last debt update. This will probably be the 3rd student loan we pay off.

Federal Student Loan 3 – 6.8% Fixed

The current balance on this student loan is $4,030.98. This is a decrease of $46.92 since the last debt update. This will be the second student loan we pay off because it has the second highest interest rate AND the lowest balance. On top of that, we hate the bank this loan is through so it gives us even more reason to pay it off.

Private Student Loan 2 – 5.75% Variable

The current balance on this student loan is $22,866.07… ouch! This is a decrease of $93.65 since the last debt update. This is the highest balance loan but it has a lower interest rate for now. Unless interest rates start rising we’ll wait to pay this loan off until the federal loans are paid off.

Private Student Loan 3 – 4.75% Variable

The current balance on this student loan is $8,318.13. This is a decrease of $25.30 since the last debt update. This is the lowest interest rate loan and, unless interest rates rise, this will likely be the last loan to be paid off.

Total Balance – $56,532.30 (-$2,676.85)

As I had mentioned in the past, I’ve been saving a large chunk of money help my fiancee pay her student loans when we combine our finances after we get married!

In total I have saved $36,863.99 to contribute toward this goal. This is an increase of $5,272.21 over last month… well, kind of… Right now the plan for this money is to use it to pay down the student loans when we get married later this year.

I’ve calculated this money the same way as last month but I made another change to increase this balance. The way I budget allows extra money in each category to roll over to the next period. Because of this I had some crazy balances in some of my budget categories.

This was a good thing because I could transfer all of this extra money into my massive cash account which will get us closer to our goal.

We have a long way to go but if everything goes according to a pretty aggressive plan we hope to have the student loans all paid of by the end of this year! There are only 10 months left this year… Aggressive, but completely possible!

Net Student Loan Debt – $19,668.31 (-$7,949.06)

Do you have any debt you’re trying to pay off? Do you have a goal for when you want it paid off by?