The H and R Block Budget Challenge is an online simulated experience tool available to educators. The program, which seems like a game to most young adults, portrays the financial pressures of adulthood. Although the Budget Challenge is available year-round, it holds special importance this April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. To celebrate the holiday, H And R Block will award over $1.3 million in scholarship money to Budget Challenge participants.
According to the Council for Economic Education, financial literacy classes are only required for high school graduation in seven states. This might explain why H And R Block has discovered that 58 percent of teens worry that they will experience more financial hardship than their parents have. Unfortunately, there are few outlets from which teenagers can get sound financial information.
The H and R Block Budget Challenge works to change that fact. The platform offers real world financial education to 155,000 high school students across every state. Over the month of April, H And R Block will monitor the top Budget Challenge performers and award them with scholarships for higher education. Students who do not win a scholarship will still see improvement in their financial confidence. Over 95 percent of participating educators attest to the effectiveness of the Budget Challenge in teaching teens financial literacy.
New Steps TurboTax and H&R Block are taking to keep you safe
Taxpayers are planning to get their finances organized in time for the April 18 filing deadline. Unfortunately, tax security theft is causing a challenge. Identity thieves are also planning to file fraudulent returns.
For many years, phony tax returns have been a critical challenge for the Internal Revenue Service. According to the Government Accountability Office, IRS provides that it issued approximately $5.8 tax year in fraudulent tax refunds in 2013 alone. A 2012 approximation from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration also established that due to identity theft over the subsequent five years, IRS could issue $21 billion in potentially fraudulent tax returns. Recent high-profile cyber security incidents have kept taxpayer on the edge.
New guidelines are in place to sort out this problem. H&R Block and Intuit and other companies will share more data with the government to try to identify and rule out suspicious returns.
Tax filing companies will also enhance and add security features this year. The guidelines require passwords to have more complex combinations of characters. Users who exceed a specific number of failed login attempts will be locked out. Companies will use a two-factor authentication to help reduce the security breaches.
Some of these features are not new to tax prep software. Nonetheless, some firms are changing how they operate. TurboTax now allows users to turn on two-factor authentication each time they log in the service. Hackers often rely on knowledge of the victim’s personal life to trick companies to given them targets’ login details by answering security questions. According to Intuit Vice President Julie Miller, Turbo and other software will actively notify users whenever changes are made to their accounts so as to sort out this threat and others.
H&R Block’s Ciaramitaro says the company will aggressively send more and new data to the government than it has done in the past to solve the tax identity theft problem caused by using outdated systems that identity thieves have mastered to outwit easily.
The Internal Revenue Service announced on 30th October, 2014 that there was an annual inflation in the United States of America and they made more than 40 adjustments on the tax provisions. The following tax changes have been outlined on the Revenue Procedure 2014-61. If you unsure how to file your taxes with these new changes, consider using a tax program like TaxAct 2014.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, 39.6% of the new tax rate affects unmarried individuals whose income is more than $413,200 as well as married couples whose income exceeds $413,200. In addition to this, the standard deduction for the unmarried will rise to $6,300 while for the married couples whose returns are not the same will rise to $12,600. On the other hand, standard deduction for married couples who fill the same returns will have their standard deduction rise from $6,200 to $12,400. On the same note, each household head will have his/her standard deduction increased from $9.250 to $9,100.
When it comes to personal exemption, as compared to $3,950 that was for the year 2014 it will be expected that in 2015 this will rise to $4,000. However, this will not be realized at once and it will be subjected to a number of phases starting from $258,250 for the unmarried and $309,900 for married couples who fill the same tax returns. The last phase will be $380,750 for the unmarried and $432,400 for couples who are married and they fill the same tax returns.
In terms of the Alternative Minimum Tax exemption, it will be $53,600 for the unmarried and $83,400 for married couples filling the same tax returns for the year 2015. This shows that there is a significant increase as compared to 2014 which was $52,800 for the unmarried and $82,100 for the married couples filling the same tax returns. The Alternative Maximum Earned Income Credit for the year 2015 will be $6,242 for tax payers with more than three children. This is a significant increase as compared to the year 2014 whereby the Alternative Maximum Earned Income Credit was $6,143 for taxpayers with more than three children.
Furthermore as compared to 2014 whereby Estates of Decedents who died were given a basic exclusion of $5,340,000 this basic exclusion for Estates of Decedents who will die in 2014 fiscal year will be increased to $5,430,000. In addition to this, the exclusion from tax on a gift for non-US spouse will be increased from $145,000 (2014) to $147,000 in the year 2015. In addition to this, $99,200 foreign earned income exclusion for the year 2014 will rise significantly in 2015 to $100,800. Furthermore, the maximum credit will be phased out depending on the number of full-time employees. Lastly, the annual dollar limit of employee contribution to Flexible Spending Arrangements will rise from $50 to $2,550 in 2015 fiscal year.
There are many factors online tax preparers need to figure in when choosing the correct option for them to file their taxes in 2015. A few of these concerns are safety, tools provided by the various companies, and pricing.
TurboTax 2015 has provided a tremendous example of safety measures when it comes to your online tax preparation. Regrettably, many companies do not take the same measures that TurboTax did with Turbo Tax 2013 and more recent versions. Because certain companies do not take security features as one of their top priorities, a rise has been seen in tax refund theft. To ensure that you receive your tax refund and it does not fall into the hands of someone else, you should look for tax preparation software that includes security features and use a cryptic password for your tax preparation software.
Once you have located a few tax preparation software packages with high security features, look at the tools featured in each version of the tax preparation software in your line up. Are the tools listed with the software what you will need for your specific tax preparation and will they lead to an ease of preparation or are there too many for your tax preparation and will lead to little more than jumbling up the process of your tax preparation. Tools should provide convenience and efficiency, not confuse consumers.
Once the tools and security features have been looked into, you should look into the price of the tax preparation software that you still have on your list. If they have made it through your security and tools checklist, each should provide just what you need for your tax preparation needs so you can, hopefully, pick from a variety of prices.
The trademarked TaxAct Express allows taxpayers to enjoy the maximum guaranteed refund when they e-file their 2014 taxes.
TaxAct Express, an app for smart phones, also offers free federal and state tax filing, the first company to do so. Everything required to file a straightforward tax return is included in the app, including the standard forms such as the 1040 and 1040EZ.
Other scenarios affecting your 2014 or 2015 taxes are also included and covered in the TaxAct app, including unemployment and dividend income, interest and deductions for families on a lower income, education and dependents. The app asks a series of simple questions and as these are answered, the amount due or owed will update itself, along with a summary allowing users to see in detail how that figure was arrived at. TaxAct double checks the accuracy of the information and looks for mistakes once the questions have all been answered.
2014 is gone and being a new year; you should begin thinking about preparing and filing your federal taxes. Tax preparation and filing can consume a lot of your time if you have no experience doing so. However, if you get the right tax programs such as TaxAct and TurboTax, then you are ready because you will file the taxes in the shortest time possible. Besides, you will have no worries since the programs will guide you all through the process.
There are a few changes in the tax code, but these tax programs have been adjusted to suit the new system. Currently, TurboTax has a limited-time discount for the simple filers; 1040EZ/A filers that are,you are capable of filing your federal and state taxes free of charge. Isn’t that good enough for simple filers? There is no promotion or discount codes required to enjoy the offer. You simply need to file your taxes with the TurboTax Federal Free Edition. It is not clear when the promotion will end hence it would be prudent to be among the first people and enjoy the benefits.
TaxACT Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It’s wise to understand some changes that TurboTax has made in its packages though. The sections for filing Schedule C, D and E are now excluded from TurboTax Delux package. The Schedule C includes self-employment income and expenses; Schedule D is investments filing, and Schedule E entails the partnership and rental income filings. The Schedule D and E are now found in the Turbo Premier and other higher packages while on the contrary the Schedule E is found in Home and Business edition only.Irrespective of the significant changes, TurboTax is very reliable and intuitive. The software is simple to use and you can use it for complex filings both for professionals and independent users. In addition, it imports information, offer quick calculations, and give you audit risk and refund.
TaxAct is very affordable yet its features are just effective as other programs. It offers even learning materials and mini-alerts that identify errors that can help you in audit risk identification and give the best recommendations to take. By this, you are sure of accuracy of your tax filling even with the simple process. Just like TurboTax, TaxAct offers superior value and is suitable for both simple and complex tax returns for individual users and institutions.
These tax programs enable you file your taxes online, and they bring you many benefits. For instance, you can save money that you might have paid an accountant to do the job for you. Secondly, you save time when you use for example TurboTax company because you can take even 30 minutes only to finish your tax filing. In addition, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home since you don’t have to book an appointment with an accountant. In addition, the process enhances your financial situation awareness because you can observe your income, expenditures and assets that you have had for the whole year.
A full-fledged war is never a good thing, except when two corporations are battling it out. H&R Block attempts to poach users of TurboTax and the latter’s attempt to retain its clientele has led to a pleasant surprise— lots of freebies for customers including you.
The battle began when the TurboTax Deluxe 2014 edition received around 500 one-star reviews on Amazon from irate customers who felt cheated upon discovering that the 2014 Deluxe edition did not allow users to file Schedule C and D forms used to report investment and small business income. Customers were annoyed that they were indirectly being forced to upgrade to a costlier version of TurboTax.
Tax prep giant H&R Block decided to fish in troubled waters by promising to give their Deluxe tax prep software for free to all those individuals who have bought the Basic or Deluxe edition of TurboTax 2014. Curiously, H&R Block has avoided making this promise on its website and has preferred to spread the word through the media.
All H&R Block asks for is proof that the individual had indeed purchased the Basic or Deluxe version of TurboTax. A quick email to [email protected] along with name, address, contact number, OS specs—Mac or Windows, and a scan or email indicating purchase of TurboTax is enough for you to enjoy the unabridged version of H&R Block’s Deluxe edition.
Stung by the virulent criticism and H&R Block’s attempt to poach its customers, the VP of TurboTax, Bob Meighan reiterated that the company plans to do all it takes to retain its customers. The company is indicating that it is open to providing a free upgrade to Deluxe customers who feel cheated after having purchased the software.
TurboTax has sought to quickly counter H&R Block’s strategy because tax software customers rarely consider switching after getting used to a particular brand. Even if the functions are similar, customers often develop a psychological block about using a new program after getting used to a particular brand.
Yet, this is probably the best opportunity for TurboTax users to take a peek at what H&R Block is all about. Even those who spent $20 on TurboTax Basic will end up receiving free access to H&R Block’s Deluxe version, which costs around $55. Cost benefits apart, the customer will also enjoy access to a new user experience.
With average value of a tax refund hovering around $3000 and the cost of tax software deductible for those who itemize their deductions, this battle between two tax prep software companies is turning out to be a win-win situation for the customer.