Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Write your own stimulus package...

There's no way of knowing yet if you can write yourself a better economic stimulus package than President Obama and Congress will put together, but you can write yourself a faster one.

Start now to nail down your IRS refund sooner. Last year's average refund topped $2,400, which is better than a proposed $1,000 per couple stimulus Washington was talking about before. Besides, it's your money, so it won't show up in all the red ink the leaders are worried about.

You'll have the tools you need when the last of your W-2s and other tax documents hit your mailbox by the end of next week or so. The big things to do before then are to start pulling your tax records together, check your mail, and apply for last year's stimulus rebate if you still have some of that money coming, reports the Tax Mama, Eva Rosenberg, who is one of my favorite tax mavens.

Even though experts calculate that maybe six in 10 of us wouldn't pass even a simple tax quiz, there is still time to catch up on enough of the basics to know what to look for.

First, check out a flurry of tax changes late last year to see which might help you. Let your tax pro sweat the details, but check out online resources H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax Service to learn the broad outlines.

Next, check out what free tax help you can find to sort out the details. Your best places to start looking are at the IRS website or the service's toll free number 1-800-829-1040.

And what if you owe money instead? It's still okay to file now but hold off sending the check until April.

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