Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tax refund rules change when you are job hunting

Tax time is a hoot on the unemployment line.

A guy named Ray Conejo in Kissimmee, Fla., apparently is using his refund to help pay for his bankruptcy filing this year. And late night TV tax doyen Roni Deutch points out, accurately, that it's easier for some of us to qualify for bigger refunds this year. With our reduced incomes, more of what we spent in 2008 bumps above the 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income threshhold that is tall cotton to itemizers.

It's a mixed boon. Like saving on shampoo because you are bald, quips Deutch crunched tax numbers this weekend. Our refunds are going to outrun our balances due by about $150. The really good news, when you are on a lean budget like ours, is that we don't owe. The not so good news is that unemployment benefits and other part-time income mean more tax work before April 15. We need to file estimated and self employment taxes too because our withholding is way down.

But what do we do with the $150 windfall? The basic advice that personal finance writers shovel out still works. Pay debts and stash as much as you can. But priorities change. We're more into stashing these days.

And whether you are employed or not, it's time to start planning for next year.

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