The other day on Facebook was a post about how life has changed lately featuring the Jetsons. Jane sat Elroy down in front of a large screen for his doctor’s visit. George had a virtual meeting with the boss, Mr. Spacely, with his feet up on the desk. Jane took an exercise class from the comfort of her own home. The only thing we are missing these days is the flying car.
I now sit in front of a laptop in my own home reviewing tax returns. No need to visit anyone in an office to have your taxes done. With a cell phone and paperless documents, it can all be done virtually. In fact the IRS prefers you file online and not mail any paper. Many states require online filing too.
Filing a tax return has been made easy but as a tax professional, don’t confuse easy with a having a solid financial plan. The pandemic has throw just about everyone’s financial well being into a blender. The government is throwing money at us, which money is good, but is it really getting to those who need it most?
As a tax preparer, I get to see the real deal when it comes to how many Americans live outside of my own bubble. This year I’m seeing unemployment amounts in figures higher than I ever seen before. But that amount is taxable income and without that knowledge many people who can least afford it are facing a tax bill instead of what is usually a hefty refund. If Biden’s relief bill passes hopefully it includes some relief for taxes on unemployment but that remains to be seen.
If you needed to take a distribution from a retirement account due to Covid, you may be able to get relief from the 10% early distribution penalty. That is a good thing. But think long and hard about the option to spread that distribution over three years as is now allowed for disaster relief. The withholding taken out on the full amount is applied to the 2020 return. In 2021 a third will be added to your income and the same in 2022 without any benefit of that withholding.
I hope I gave you all something to think about. That’s the only point I’m trying to make. Don’t rush to drink what looks like a very tasty drink without thinking it through very carefully to find what makes the best financial sense for you. Because virtual is faster doesn’t mean it is always better for you. For right now you have until April 15th to press that file button. Take a deep breath and ask a trusted advisor for help if you need it. Once everything is mixed in that blender, it’s not easy to get it back to its original self.