- Days left

Few things are as financially exciting as receiving a big check from Uncle Sam, as will probably happen to you when you get your tax refund for 2014. Don't be hasty, though. With your tax refund in 2014 and beyond, there are some things to consider, and avoid, to maximize your dollars.

Don't be scammed
First off, know that you're not the only one eagerly on the lookout for 2014 tax refund checks. So are scammers and thieves. You're probably aware of the problem of identity theft, but you might not realize that 43% of identity theft complaints were tax-related, up from just 15% in 2010, per the Federal Trade Commission.

Scammers mainly need your Social Security number to go after your 2014 tax refund. Being sure to give it out only when really necessary is one way to protect yourself. Another is to file your taxes early. That's because it's what the thieves do. They submit a fake return angling for your 2014 tax refund, and when you later file your actual return, your refund will be rejected because it was already paid out. These matters do get resolved, but it can take many months. If you file your return early, though, you can beat the thieves to the money.

It's also best to mail your return from a post office, not by leaving it in your mailbox for a letter carrier to pick up. If you file electronically, do so from a secure network, not a public Wi-Fi network in a coffeehouse. And finally, know that the IRS won't text or email you -- don't fall for fake communications that are after your information or dollars.

Think twice about loans
As you wait for your tax refund to arrive in 2014, you might find it tempting to grab most of those dollars early, perhaps via a "refund anticipation check" or something like that. There are lots of businesses happy to advance you the money for your 2014 tax refund -- for a fee and/or lots of interest. That fee is usually way too costly, though. (If you desperately need the funds for a major purchase, you can probably get a loan with better terms from the retailer.)

There are ways that you can speed up the receipt of your tax refund in 2014, though. For starters, file your return electronically. Those who do generally get their tax refunds much more quickly -- in four or fewer weeks, instead of up to eight for paper returns. The IRS encourages taxpayers to "e-file" or to use a "Free File" program, available to those who earn $58,000 or less. (Those with any income can e-file with the Free File Fillable Forms option.) Folks eager for their tax refunds can file as early as Jan. 31.

For even faster receipt of tax refunds in 2014, opt for direct deposit. That can get your tax refund to you in just two weeks!

Spend it wisely
Finally, think carefully about what you will do with that tax refund in 2014. It's appealing to just think of it as a windfall and to spend it merrily on some treats. It's not a windfall, though -- the refund is money that has always been yours. You simply overpaid your taxes, and Uncle Sam is returning it to you.

Consider putting it to the most productive use you can. You might, for example, invest it in the stock market. If you do so with $3,000 and the money grows at the stock market's long-term historic average annual growth rate of 10% over the next 20 years, your modest 2014 tax refund will turn into more than $20,000. (Buy a car or stereo with it, though, and those items will shrink in value instead of growing.)

If you're saddled with high-interest debt, apply your 2014 tax refund to that. Paying down $3,000 of credit card debt that's charging you 20% interest is essentially earning a 20% return on your money -- double what the stock market averages.

As you anticipate your tax refund in 2014, be smart about receiving and spending it. You can save yourself headaches and make more money, too!

Here's how to make that refund grow
In our brand-new special report "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal-finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

The article Your Tax Refund in 2014: 3 Things to Know originally appeared on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian has no position in any stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2014 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How to Buy a Car

How to get the best deal and buy a car with confidence.

View Course »

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

Cities with the Lowest Tax Rates

The total amount of tax you pay reaches far beyond what you owe the federal government. Depending on where you live, most likely you're required to pay additional taxes, including property and sales tax. The disparity between the amount of tax you pay in a low-tax city and that in a high-tax city can be dramatic. Living in any of these 10 cities could save you a bundle, although the exact amount may fluctuate based on your income and lifestyle choices.

Cities with the Highest Tax Rates

Much ado is made in the press about federal tax brackets, but cities can carry a tax bite of their own. Even if you live in a state that has no income tax, your city may levy a variety of taxes that could eat away the entire benefit of living in an income tax-free state, including property taxes, sales taxes and auto taxes. Consider all the costs before you move to one of these cities, and understand that rates may change based on your family's income level.

Great Ways to Get Charitable Tax Deductions

Generally, when you give money to a charity, you can use the amount of that donation as a deduction on your tax return. However, not all charities qualify as tax-deductible organizations. While there are many types of charities, they must all meet certain criteria to be classified by the IRS as tax-deductible organizations. There are legitimate tax-deductible organizations in many popular categories, such as those listed below.

A Freelancer's Guide to Taxes

Freelancing certainly has its benefits, but it can result in a few complications come tax time. The Internal Revenue Service considers freelancers to be self-employed, so if you earn income as a freelancer you must file your taxes as a business owner. While you can take additional deductions if you are self-employed, you'll also face additional taxes in the form of the self-employment tax. Here are things to consider as a freelancer when filing your taxes.

Tax Deductions for Voluntary Interest Payments on Student Loans

Most taxpayers who pay interest on student loans can take a tax deduction for the expense ? and you can do this regardless of whether you itemize tax deductions on your return. The rules for claiming the deduction are the same whether the interest payments were required or voluntary.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum