What Should You Do If You Are Audited?

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It’s the ultimate financial nightmare: What if you are audited?

Many of us live in FEAR of a possible IRS audit.

However, less than 1% of taxpayers are audited each year.

Some audits come because of red flags that the IRS recognizes, and others are simply the result of random chance.  In many cases, all that is needed is for you to mail in some documentation that backs up your claim of a deduction or credit.  Getting an audit letter is no reason to immediately panic.

But there is always the chance that you have to go through a more difficult tax audit.

If that happens, though, you have options:Continue Reading

The New Job Market: Temporary Jobs and Freelancers

One of the challenges facing many job-seekers is the fact that the job market has changed quite a bit in recent years.

The recession that accompanied the recent financial crisis led to a rise in temporary jobs and freelancing jobs.

However, these are no longer jobs that people do to “get by” until they find something a little more permanent.  Indications are that these are becoming the permanent jobs.

Temporary Jobs and Freelancing are the New Job Market

Staffing Jobs on the Rise

The American Staffing Association releases data from a quarterly survey about trends in the workplace.  For the third quarter of 2012, there was a year over year increase of 4.3% in staffing jobs.  The latest data represent the 11th consecutive quarter that staffing jobs have grown since 2009 and the technical end of the recession.

Temporary positions are on the rise, in part, because freelancers, temps, and adjuncts cost a lot less than full-time regular workers.
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How to Use the Internet to Find Your Next Job

Whether you are unemployed, or whether you just want to take your career in a new direction, one of the best tools you have at your disposal is the Internet.

You no longer need to rely only on Classifieds in the newspaper and a trip to your state’s employment services office.  And your entire fate no longer rests on your resume (although a resume is still important).

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can find your next job online — even if you plan to work in the offline world.

Using the Internet to Find a Job

Update Your Online Persona

First of all, potential employers are probably going to Google you if they are even remotely interested.  Public items that you have shared on social media are going to be “out there.”  A glimpse of some of your images on Facebook or Flickr is possible.  Tweets are searchable (even the Library of Congress is cataloging tweets).  And if you have a blog, what you write is out there for all to see.
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Unsexy Personal Finance: 6 Things You Need to Take Care Of

Personal finance isn’t always the exciting place that we personal finance bloggers seem to think it is.

While there’s something sexy about finding the right index fund for your Roth IRA, there are plenty of other unsexy things that you just have to do.

Unfortunately, some of the most important items related to your financial situation are often the things that are overlooked.

So, while it might be unsexy, here are 6 personal finance actions you need to take:

1. Create a Will

Thinking about death isn’t usually a lot of fun.  But it needs to be done — preferably before it happens.

What will happen to your assets if you die unexpectedly?  Who will care for your children?

These are questions that deserve serious thought, especially if you care about your family.  Consider how you would make sure your children are cared for, and how you would make sure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
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New Options for Taking the Home Office Tax Deduction

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Even as you gather your documentation to prepare your 2012 tax return, it’s time to look ahead and begin planning your tax situation for the next tax year.

One of the things to consider as you plan for this year is the new option for taking the home office tax deduction.

There are a number of tax-deductible business expenses that you can claim with your home business.  One of those is a deduction for the cost of the space you are using in your home.

If you plan to take the home office tax deduction, you are required to fill out Form 8829, which consists of 43 lines and can include depreciation and carryovers of deductions you haven’t used.  In some cases, the IRS even acknowledges, figuring the deduction can be a bit complex.  Plus, if you make mistakes on this form, it can red-flag your return for an audit.

Recognizing that home offices are becoming increasingly popular for the growing number of self-employed taxpayers, as well as for telecommuters, the IRS has released an optional method of claiming the home office tax deduction.  It comes into effect this year, in 2013, so you will be able to claim it (if you choose) early next year when filing your 2013 tax return.

New Option for Claiming the Home Office Tax Deduction

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What Are Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) and How Do They Affect Your Retirement?

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It seems like when you get to retirement you should be able to take it easy.

Your money is in a tax-advantaged account, and you can take out money as you need.  No reason to fuss about it.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

While you might think that you can put off withdrawing money from your tax-advantaged account if you have income from other sources, this isn’t true if your account is subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs).

What are RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions)?

The RMD is a required amount that you are forced to take from certain tax-advantaged retirement accounts — even if you don’t need the money.

If you don’t take your RMD when you are supposed to, you can be charged penalties that can reduce the value of your retirement account.

RMDs are not required for Roth IRAs.  However, other retirement accounts come with RMDs.  This means your Traditional IRA, and other non-Roth IRAs are subject to RMDs.  Additionally, all 401(k) and 403(b) accounts are subject to RMDs.
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How Compound Interest Can Work Against You

We hear a lot about compound interest, and how it can help you build your retirement.

Indeed, the power of compound interest is the subject of many articles on how to build wealth over time.

Even though compound interest is powerful, it’s not just a force for good.  In fact, compound interest, like so much in the world of finances, is itself neither good nor bad.  It’s how you use it that matters.

Understanding how compound interest works is essential.

A quote, commonly attributed to Albert Einstein (although it hasn’t been completely substantiated), points out that, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it, and he who doesn’t pays it.”

Compound interest can work against you just as well as it can work for you.

The key is to earn it — and not pay it.  Debt is the way that you pay compound interest, and it works against you.

Simple Interest vs. Compound Interest

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