Make Your Child's Summer Break a Tax Break

As a busy working parent, you may be on the lookout for activities that are available for your kids this summer. There may be a solution that’s also a tax break: Summer camp!

Using the Child and Dependent Care Credit, you can be reimbursed for part of the cost of enrolling your child in a day camp this summer.

Am I eligible?

  1. You, and your spouse if you are married, must both be working.
  2. Your child must be under age 13, your legal dependent, and live in your residence for more than half the year.

Tip: If your spouse doesn’t work but is either a full-time student, or is disabled and incapable of self-care, you can still qualify for the credit.

How much can I save?

For 2022, you can claim a maximum credit of $1,050 on up to $3,000 in expenses for one child, or $2,100 on up to $6,000 in expenses for two or more children.

What kind of camps?

The only rule is: no overnight camps.

The credit is designed to help working people care for their kids during the work day, so summer camps where kids stay overnight aren’t eligible for this credit.

Other than that, it doesn’t matter what kind of camp: soccer camp, chess camp, summer school or even day care. All of these are eligible expenses for this credit.

Other ways to use this credit

While summer day camp costs are a common way to use this credit, any cost to provide care for your children while you are working may be eligible.

For example, you can use this credit to pay a qualified day care center, a housekeeper or a babysitter to take care of your child while you are working. You can even pay a relative to care for your child and claim the credit for that expense, as long as the relative isn’t your dependent, minor child or spouse.

This is just one of many possible tax breaks related to children and dependents. Please call if you have questions about this credit, or if you’d like to discuss any other tax savings ideas.

Start Your Tax Planning NOW!

Keeping your taxes as low as possible requires paying attention to your financial situation throughout the year. Here are some tips for getting a head start on tax planning for your 2022 return:

  • Check your paycheck withholdings. Now is a good time to check your tax withholdings to make sure you haven’t been paying too much or too little. The IRS has an online tool that will help you calculate how much your current withholdings match what your final tax bill will be. Visit https://apps.irs.gov/app/tax-withholding-estimator.

    Action step: To change how much is withheld from your paycheck in taxes, fill out a new Form W-4 and give it to your employer.

  • Defer earnings. You could potentially cut your tax liability by deferring your 2022 income to a future year via contributions to a retirement account. For 2022, the 401(k) contribution limit is $20,500 ($27,000 if 50 or older); $6,000 for both a traditional and Roth IRA ($7,000 if 50 and older); or $14,000 for a SIMPLE IRA ($17,000 if 50 and older).

    Action step: Consider an automatic transfer from either your paycheck or checking account to your retirement account so you won’t have to think about manually making a transfer each month.

  • Plan withdrawals from retirement accounts to be tax efficient. Your retirement accounts could span multiple account types, such as traditional retirement accounts, Roth accounts, and taxable accounts like brokerage or savings accounts. Because of this you should plan for your withdrawals to be as tax efficient as possible.

    Action step: One way to structure withdrawals is to pull from taxable accounts first, and leave Roth account withdrawals for last. Another approach would be to structure proportional withdrawals from all retirement accounts that would lead to a more predictable tax bill each year.

  • Net capital gains with capital losses. If you have appreciated investments you’re thinking about selling, take a look through the rest of your portfolio to see if you have other assets that you could sell for a loss and use to offset your gains. Using the tax strategy of tax-loss harvesting, you may be able to take advantage of stocks that have underperformed.

    Action step: Make an appointment with your investment advisor to look over your portfolio to see if there are any securities you may want to sell by the end of 2022.

Tax planning can potentially result in a lower bill from the IRS if you start taking action now. Please call if you have questions about your tax situation for 2022.

Help Your High School Student Become Money Smart

Often lost in the race to get kids through high school and on to life in the real world are basic financial skills. Here are a dozen financial concepts to consider explaining to your kids before graduating high school.

  1. How bank accounts work. While there are numerous online applications, consider using a good ol’ check register when teaching the basics of how to track and reconcile bank account activity.
  2. How credit cards work. Emphasize to your child that credit card spending actually creates a loan. Go through a monthly statement together and show how interest is calculated and stress the need to never carry a balance from month to month by showing how long it takes to pay off the debt with minimum payments.
  3. Tax basics. When your child receives their first paycheck, walk through their paystub to explain Social Security and Medicare taxes, federal income tax withholdings, and state tax withholdings. If they receive a Form 1099 instead of a paycheck, consider opening a savings account and explain that they will need to set aside a certain percentage of their money to pay the IRS.
  4. The power of a retirement account. Explain the advantages of long-term savings tools like an IRA. The wise saver can turn into a self-made millionaire by starting their retirement savings at a young age.
  5. How credit scores work. Consider explaining how credit scores work and the importance of keeping their score at the highest level possible. If your child is like many young adults who currently doesn’t have a credit score, consider downloading your own credit report and walk through it with them.

Common April Tax Questions Answered!

The individual tax deadline of April 18th (yes, this year it's April 18th!) is fast approaching. Here are answers to five common questions that taxpayers typically ask in April.

  1. What happens if I don’t file on time?
    There’s no penalty for filing a tax return after the deadline if you are set to receive a refund. However, penalties and interest are due if taxes are not paid on time or a tax extension is not requested AND you owe tax.

    To avoid this problem, file your taxes as soon as you can because the penalties can pile up pretty quickly. The failure-to-file penalty is 5 percent of the unpaid tax added for each month (or part of a month) that a tax return is late.

  2. Can I file for an extension?
    If you are not on track to complete your tax return by April 18th, you can file an extension to give you until Oct. 17, 2022 to file your tax return. Be aware that this is only an extension of time to file — not an extension of time to pay taxes you owe. You still need to pay all taxes by April 18th to avoid penalties and interest.

    So even if you plan to file an extension, a preliminary review of your tax documents is necessary to determine whether or not you need to make a payment when the extension is filed.

  3. What are my tax payment options?
    You have many options to pay your income tax. You can mail a check, pay directly from a bank account with IRS Direct Pay, pay with a debit or credit card (for a fee), or apply online for an IRS payment plan.

    No matter how you pay your tax bill, finalize your tax payment arrangements by the end of the day on April 18th.

  4. When will I get my refund?
    According to the IRS, 90 percent of refunds for returns that are e-filed are processed in less than 21 days. You could end up waiting several months, however, if you paper file your return. The IRS is still processing a backlog of several million paper-filed tax returns from last year.

    You can use the Where’s My Refund? feature on the IRS website to see the status of your refund. The refund information is usually available 24 hours after receiving confirmation that your e-filed tax return was accepted by the IRS.

  5. I hear the IRS is still backlogged with last year's tax returns. Is this true?
    Yes. Late changing tax legislation created tons of extra work for the IRS, all while the pandemic played havoc on staffing. During a testimony made to Congress, the Director of the IRS claims the backlog will be cleared up by the end of the year...assuming no major demands for are made on their resources.

Five Great Money Tips

Creating a sound financial foundation for you and your family is anything but easy. With low interest rates as an incentive to borrow more and even lower interest rates on savings accounts is it any wonder that it's tough to retain the discipline to save? Here are five thoughts that may help.

  1. Pay yourself first. Treat saving money with the same care you pay your bills. Take a percentage of everything you earn and save it. Using this technique can help build an emergency fund and keep you from living paycheck to paycheck.
  2. Know and use the Rule of 72. You can roughly calculate the number of years compound interest will take to double your money using the Rule of 72. Do this by dividing 72 by your rate of return to estimate how long it takes to double your money. For example, 10% interest will double an investment in 7.2 years; investments with an 8% return will double in nine years. Use this concept to understand the power of saving and investment.
  3. Use savings versus debt for purchases. Unpaid debt is like compound interest but in reverse. For instance, using a 12% interest credit card to pay $1,500 for home appliances costs over $2,000 if paid back over 5 years. The result is that you have to work harder and earn more to pay for the items you purchase. A better idea may be to save and then buy your dream item.
  4. Understand amortization. When a bank loans you money, it gives you a specific interest rate and a set number of years to pay it back. Each payment you make contains interest as well as a reduction of the amount owed, called principal. Most of the interest payments are front-loaded, while the last few payments are virtually all principal. Making additional principal payments at the beginning of the loan’s term will decrease the amount of interest you pay to the bank and help you pay off the loan more quickly.
  5. Taxes are complex and require help. Tax laws are complicated. They are made even more complex when the rules change, often late in the year. Even worse, the IRS is not in the job of telling you when you forget to take a deduction. The best way to stay out of the IRS spotlight AND minimize your taxes is to ask for help.