2015’s Best & Worst States for Finding Tax Help

Best and Worst States for Finding Tax Help BadgeThere’s no shame in admitting it – many of us need a bit of help with our taxes.  Whether due to time restriction, numerical aversion or a simple lack of interest, we look upon mid-April with foreboding and then watch as procrastination inevitably makes way to a last-minute scramble.

Haste and disorganization are most likely the two primary reasons why roughly 2.3 million people made math errors on their tax returns in 2013, the most recent year for which IRS data is available.  So rather than spend the 16 hours the IRS says it takes for an individual to fill out their 1040, nearly 6 in 10 taxpayers hire a professional to do their returns.

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What to Do If You Can’t Pay Your Taxes

What If I Cant Pay My Taxes

Tax season is a stressful time for most people, but it’s especially difficult for those of us with doubts about our ability to pay the IRS. The good news is there are a number of ways anyone can make an unmanageable tax obligation easier to deal with without drastically driving up the costs.

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2015’s Best States to Be Rich or Poor from a Tax Perspective

States-to-Be-Rich-or-Poor-from-a-Tax-Perspective-BadgeIt’s tax season, and Uncle Sam’s back not only to collect but also, it seems, to kick Americans who are already down. The Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, or ITEP, found in its latest report that many taxes — including payroll taxes, sales taxes, and some state and local taxes — are regressive, which means they take more money out of the pockets of Americans in the lower- and middle-income brackets than from wealthier families.

After accounting for all taxes, in fact, “the nationwide average effective state and local tax rates by income group are 10.9 percent for the poorest 20 percent of individuals and families, 9.4 percent for the middle 20 percent and 5.4 percent for the top 1 percent,” according to the ITEP. Such disappointing findings have brought the question of fairness to the forefront of the current tax season.

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Funds Availability: When Will Your Deposit Clear?

Available funds

Deposit accounts are essential tools for managing and spending your money, but there are times when not all of your money is available to spend. What you’ll notice is that your “available” balance is lower than the full balance of your account because your financial institution has placed a hold on a deposit.

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Overdraft Protection: What It Is & How To Avoid Fees

Overdraft Protection

No one is perfect, and everyone from time to time will overdraw his or her checking account. Maybe you miscalculated your balance or forgot to deposit money. It happens. But the cost of an occasional blunder can add up because most banks and credit unions charge substantial fees of $35 or more whenever you exceed your account balance — not to mention the additional embarrassment and headaches of bouncing a check or electronic payment.

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Extended Car Warranty: Is It Worth It?

Car extended warranty

When purchasing a car – even some used cars – you’ll be faced with a decision about whether to purchase an extended warranty to protect yourself from expensive car repair bills. Before paying for one of these plans, it’s important to know what you’re buying and what your alternatives are.

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Credit Union vs. Bank: What’s the Difference

Banks vs. Credit Unions Guide

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When most people think of checking and savings accounts, mortgages or car loans, they think of banks.  Heck, we call a lot of those financial products “bank” accounts.  But what about the bank’s cousin, the credit union? Given the ubiquity of banks, it’s no surprise that some folks don’t understand the fundamental differences between the two— let alone what a credit union actually is.

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2015’s Best & Worst Cities for Basketball Fans

Best-and-Worst-Cities-for-Basketball-FansTo Americans, March can mean one of three things: losing an hour of sleep, the arrival of spring or — to the more than 67 million American adults crazed about basketball — several chaotic weeks of betting, shouting and high-fiving in front of multiple TVs tuned in to different games. If the title of this report didn’t give it away, March Madness is upon us once again.

But we’re not here to bet with you on the seed that’s likely to bag the biggest prize in college basketball. As much as we care which team is destined for victory, we care about your wallets first and foremost. After all, it’s you who spend tens of billions of dollars in the name of basketball, wagering $9 billion alone on the current tournament.

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2015’s Best Banks for Record Keeping

wallethub square badge 1Online statements provide both convenience and security. They’re available sooner than paper statements, they can be accessed anywhere there’s an Internet location, and they simplify long-term record keeping. Plus, online statements help the environment.

Consumers are thus proving to be increasingly receptive to online statements, especially as mobile banking functionality continues to improve. Nearly 29% of banking customers had opted-in for online statements as of 2013, according to DigitalMailer research, which represents an 11% increase from the year before.
With that being said, the primary goal of this report was to determine the online record-keeping policies of the nation’s largest banks and credit unions – including the length of time records are available for immediate download, what types of historical records are maintained, and the cost associated with accessing them.

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2015’s Best & Worst Run Cities in America

Run-Cities-in-America-BadgeLike Rome, no great city is built in a day. Economics and leadership play key roles in shaping the foundation of an ideal metropolis. The best cities often turn out to be ones that most efficiently spend their public resources in order to satisfy the needs and priorities of most — if not all — members of the community.

In recent years, total debt for local governments has increased, underscoring the importance for cities to spend wisely within their means. With tax season approaching, WalletHub assessed how efficiently some of America’s largest cities spend taxpayer dollars on certain expenditure categories, including education, police, and parks and recreation, which led to the creation of our report series on the “Best Run Cities in America.”

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2015’s Cities with the Most & Least Diversified Economies

Cities-with-the-Most-Least-Diversified-Economies-Badge"Don’t put all your eggs in one basket." Words to live by, according to general investor wisdom, and one of the best safeguards against market volatility. But the principle applies to more than investing practices. U.S. cities that put the same words into action sailed gracefully through the global economic storm.

Some researchers have found that greater professional diversity increases a city’s productivity, a pattern that is present across growing and large urban areas in the U.S. And the trend is consistent globally. Referring to countries, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization contends that “more diversified economies are less volatile in terms of outputs, and lower output volatility is associated with higher economic growth.”

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NCUA & FDIC Insurance Limits: How Coverage Is Calculated

Money padlock safe

Although bank and credit union failures are rare, they’re not unprecedented. That’s why it’s important to know that government insurance — backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government — will protect your deposits even when your financial institution doesn’t. The track record is clear: Since the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) were founded, no bank account holder or credit union member has ever lost a penny of federally insured deposits.

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Car Repair Insurance: Is Coverage for Breakdowns Worth It?

Car Engine

Car repair insurance, or mechanical breakdown coverage, is available from a few insurance companies such as GEICO and Mercury Insurance. Adding this coverage to your car insurance can save you from bearing the cost of major repairs like a blown engine or transmission on your own. But for mostpeople it’s just not a good value.

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2015’s Best and Worst States for Women

Best-and-Worst-States-for-Women-BadgeLong ago, many American women abandoned their glass-slipper dreams and welcomed new aspirations of shattering glass ceilings. And indeed they have. Countless women today are industry pioneers, government leaders and family breadwinners, among other important roles once beyond their reach or imagination.

In recent years, women have made even more remarkable strides in areas where men once dominated. In fact, both the percentages of women in public-sector leadership positions and private-sector board memberships increased in 2014. And far more women — especially those from racial minority groups — than men are enrolled in college these days.

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Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence: Learn about State Rules

Gavel and Toy Car Crash

It’s only fair for the person responsible for a car accident to bear the costs. But what happens when more than one person shares the blame? The answer to that question isn’t the same in every state.

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ATM PIN Number Reversal: Myth or Reality?

ATM Customer and Mugger

Many people believe that if you’re under distress while using an ATM, entering your PIN backward (i.e. 4-3-2-1 rather than 1-2-3-4) will send an emergency call to the police. But while the idea may seem useful, perhaps ingenious, it has never been put into practice. Sorry, all you believers out there!

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2015’s Metro Areas with the Biggest & Smallest Weight Problems

Metro Areas with the Biggest Smallest Weight Problems BadgeBeing described as “overweight” or “obese” is unflattering on a personal level. But it’s even more so when your entire country sits at the bottom of a global obesity scale. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of American adults and about 17 percent of young people were obese in 2012. That’s not counting the overweight. Meanwhile, our wallets have grown lighter as the economic and societal costs of the extra pounds continue to rise.

By some estimates, Americans spend up to $210 billion annually on obesity-related medical treatment, elevating health care costs exponentially for obese adults and children compared with healthier individuals. In the workplace, obesity-related health issues yield indirect costs to the worker and employer alike. Absenteeism, for one, results in lost wages and reduced productivity. If obesity trends continue at their current rate, treatment costs could rise as much as $66 billion a year and annual productivity losses by up to $580 billion by 2030. Fortunately, that provides ample time to tip the scale back in favor of health.

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CLUE Reports: How Car Insurance Companies Track Claims

CLUE Report

You’ve had an accident and filed a claim. You’re worried your insurer may raise your rates. Can you switch to another insurance company that doesn’t know about the accident?

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Checking vs. Savings Accounts: What’s the Difference?

Piggy Bank vs Bills
Checking and savings accounts, the most common financial products offered by banks and credit unions, have both similarities and differences. Each allows you to deposit funds and provides government-backed insurance that guarantees the safety of your balance (currently up to $250,000). But the two types of accounts also differ in terms of their intended use, with checking accounts being designed for everyday banking and regular access to cash, while savings accounts are meant primarily for long-term money storage.

Whether you need one or both types of accounts, understanding the features and functions of each will help you determine what best fits your needs.

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What Is Accident Forgiveness Car Insurance?

young-man-calling-for-car-assistance
Insurance companies offer a variety of accident forgiveness programs designed to reassure safe drivers that, on the rare occasion that they do cause an accident, they won’t be penalized for it with increased premiums. Accident forgiveness can benefit insurers and customers alike.

Insurance companies benefit by retaining loyal customers who are the least likely to cause an accident. Drivers benefit from the reassurance that, if you have that rare lapse in judgment, you might be able to avoid the curse of higher rates.

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