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The 3 Smartest Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

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Getting money back from the Internal Revenue Service this year? Before you rush out to spend it all, consider these three ways to make the most out of your refund. (Haven't started your taxes? Why not do them this weekend?)

1. Kill Your Credit Card Debt

Every day you hold on to debt, it costs you money. The longer you have a balance on a credit card or high-interest loan, the more yo' have to pay in the long run. Ready for a scary example? If you make the 3 percent minimum monthly payment a $5,000 balance on a credit card with an 18.9 percent interest rate, your payments will total $10,188 -- and it will take you more than 17 years to pay the balance in full. A calculator from Bankrate.com will help figure out the interest you'll pay on your debt and how a little extra each month could make your debt disappear years faster. So put your tax refund toward knocking out your debt with the highest interest rate.

2. Boost Your Emergency Fund

If you don't have an emergency fund yet, use your tax refund to establish one. Emergency funds will provide you with the cash you need to cover unforeseen costs that might otherwise wipe out your monthly budget and even eat into savings that you had earmarked for other purposes. Need some motivation to keep contributing to your emergency fund? Join the Rainy Day Challenge and let a little gamification help you stay on track.

Unexpected expenses happen to everyone, so it's a great idea to be prepared. (Wondering what those unexpected expenses look like? Check out My $1,000 Day.) The rule of thumb is to have about three to six months' worth of net pay set aside in your emergency fund. If you're not there yet, use your tax refund to give your savings account the boost it needs.

3. Invest for the Retirement

Make your tax refund work really hard for you by investing in your future with the power of compound growth. If you contribute $2,000 of your tax refund into a Roth Individual Retirement Account and earn an average of 8 percent over the next 30 years, it would be worth more than $20,000. Plus, you might qualify for the saver's tax credit next year, so a contribution to your retirement account could help you get an even bigger tax refund next year.

If you have children, you can add your refund to a 529 plan to help pay for future college education expenses.

Whatever big financial goal you have, you can use your tax refund to help you achieve your goal faster. These three smart uses of your tax refund are great for building your financial security and well-being.

However, once you've done the responsible thing with most of your IRS windfall, splurge with 5 percent to 10 percent of it. Making smart financial decisions is important, but so is enjoying just a little extra money when you have it.

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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.

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Obama has really put an end to tax refunds by subsidizing your healthcare then making you pay it back when your refund comes in.

This was NEVER a health care bill it was ALWAYS a tax and control bill. That is why this administration deliberately lied about it then and continues to lie about it now. But the "gimme free stuff" crowd lapped it up like it was chocolate. The best health care system in the world ruined by one slick talking community agitator from Chicago selling snake oil to a lot of low information, low intelligence people.

For all those who think it is so great to have health insurance for a $100/mo. or even free (mine is up to $500/month by the way… compared to $25/month auto insurance from Insurance Panda… or $10/month renters insurance from Eagle) , what do you do when it comes to your deductible that's $10K - $12K? Your don't really have health insurance, you just think you do. The taxpayers will still be picking up the cost of these folks just as before but at the additional cost of their own coverage being essentially raped.

BTW, for all those that believed Obama when he said there would be no more bailouts, think again. When the insurance companies begin to lose money on these policies, and they will, it's written right into the law that the government will make them whole, i.e., bail them out.

April 04 2015 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jan & Pat

I would like to unsubscribe --- please take me off your email list..........

April 04 2014 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can spend it on anything I please. I really get annoyed at these articles telling me what to do. eat this,don't eat that, what kind of car to buy. How about just let me decide what I want .

March 31 2014 at 2:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JOHNNY's comment

What they really want you to do is to hand the refund over to Wall Street so they can help you spend the money.

April 01 2014 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Use your refund to buy protection against being a victim of serious crime. Whether a revolver or a semi auto either one is better than none at all. Rember that when danger is at your door, the police are just minutes away. It is up to you to protect yourself till the cops arrive.

March 31 2014 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What do you mean smart I aint got no choice. Lawyers after the old credit card bought up by collection agencies. I think this is the 4th time so have to get that taken care of now. So the 700 heading for that. Did make a mistake on the computing to the IRS so will have a 100 left over for meself. Maybe a steak from the Cracker Barrel.

March 30 2014 at 3:24 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Things not to do with your tax refund: Run out and buy a big flat screen TV or new chrome rims for the minivan with blacked out windows.

You're welcome.

March 30 2014 at 11:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
worried man

The next 30 years ???????????? Holy crap...in 30 years we will be lucky to be here let alone the planet

March 30 2014 at 12:45 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
worried man

I am getting a hooker with my refund however I will check her green card first ! USA made hookers only !!

March 30 2014 at 12:39 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Boring. Anyone can do those things and be boring. Yawn. They tell us these same things every year and they have never been anything but boring. I even have done these things and found out just how boring it was. Yawn. The reason many of us get a refund is because we like a big paycheck and never get one. It's fun money (and if your idea of fun money involves Home Depot, you, too are boring) and we should do something--anything--we want to do but never have the money for. One year, long ago, I bought a large amount of high grade weed. See? Not boring. Another time we took a short cruise on a tall ship. Notice that it was a tall ship, not a floating high rise with a few thousand screaming kids. Be creative for once. Do something you can beat up the cubicle rats with. Have some fun.

March 29 2014 at 6:55 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Government says there is no inflation but if you buy food things are getting more expensive and gas doesn't seem to be getting any cheaper. With all the lies coming out of the WH, I don't believe anything they say!

March 29 2014 at 5:48 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jrb359's comment

Looks like I offended someone who is willing to give up my freedoms so as they can get a government check. Either that or they are Obama worshipers who overlook every lie he has told!

March 30 2014 at 5:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply