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Tax-Time Tips to Remember Year-Round

The April 15 tax filing deadline is soon approaching, but whether you’ve filed already or still need to prepare, here are a few tips to remember to help keep your financial house in order throughout the year.

1. Keep track of medical expenses

Many of the costs you pay out of pocket for medical and dental expenses may be deductible from your adjusted gross income (AGI). This includes costs for preventative care, treatment, prescription medications, glasses/contacts, dental exams, false teeth, and hearing aids, so long as they are not reimbursed by another source.

For the 2018 tax year, you can deduct medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of your AGI. (Learn more in IRS Publication 502.) This figure will rise to 10% for 2019.

For households with low incomes, tracking excess medical expenses can also be helpful for qualifying for and receiving higher benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP rules allow older adults aged 60+ and younger adults with disabilities to deduct unreimbursed medical expenses over $35 a month from their gross income, to meet the net income test for SNAP eligibility. In many cases, this deduction can significantly increase the amount of SNAP a household receives to help pay for nutritious food. Discover more about the SNAP medical deduction and use our SNAP Map to screen for the program in your state.

2. Be wary of fake contact from the IRS

Exercise caution if you receive a strange phone call, email, or other contact purportedly from the IRS about a problem with your return. A lot of scammers exploit the IRS to try and get more money or personal information out of taxpayers.

The IRS generally initiates contact about an issue via regular mail sent through the United States Postal Service. Occasionally—and usually after sending multiple letters—the IRS may call a person or business about an audit or delinquent return, but they never threaten arrest, deportation, or demand immediate payment.

Increasingly, scammers are “spoofing” the IRS phone number, emailing false tax transcripts to insert malware on someone’s computer when they click on the link, and falsely impersonating tax professionals. Learn about these “Dirty Dozen” scams and how to protect yourself and loved ones.

3. Get free filing assistance

The IRS offers several solutions to help older adults prepare and file their tax returns at no cost.

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA/TCE) programs provide free help for low-income taxpayers and taxpayers age 60 or older to fill in and file their returns. For the VITA/TCE site nearest you, contact your local IRS office.
  • AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation and has more than 5,000 locations in neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers, and senior centers annually during the filing season. Visit AARP.org/TaxAide or call 888-OUR-AARP (888-687-2277) for more information.

4. Stay on top of your Social Security benefits

Did you know that April is also National Social Security Month? This is a great time to create a my Social Security account at ssa.gov/mysocialsecurity, where you can:

  • Request a replacement Social Security card
  • Set up or change direct deposit
  • Get a proof of income letter
  • Change your address, if you get benefits
  • Check the status of your Social Security application
  • Get a Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099)

5. Discover other ways to maximize your budget

Whether you owe money or are getting a refund from the IRS, now is the time to consider other ways to stretch your budget.

NCOA’s free, comprehensive online screening tool BenefitsCheckUp® helps those with low to modest incomes assess eligibility for programs that can save money on prescriptions, health care, food, housing, and more.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a number of guides and tools to assist older adults and their families with navigating later-life financial security. The Planning for Retirement tool looks at the difference in Social Security benefits based on the age you claim. Be sure to also check out their tips on managing debt, considering a reverse mortgage, and managing someone else’s money.

April is Financial Literacy Month, so there’s no better time to use these tips to set up and maintain healthy financial habits for the future!

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About Brandy Bauer

Brandy Bauer is Associate Director of NCOA's Center for Benefits Access, where she educates both aging network professionals and consumers about Medicare and opportunities to improve seniors’ economic outlook.

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