Some good news for a change if you have student loans! Two changes can help you erase that loan debt. For starters, on July 1, 2009, the interest rate on new student loans dropped from 6.8% to 5.6% and will plunge to 3.4% in 2012 as mandated by Congress. Second is the new Public Loan Forgiveness Program. Work full-time for 10 years in public service, and your student loan debt is forgiven. You have to have made 120 monthly payments and only Direct Loans (such as Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Consolidation Loans, etc.) are eligible. Get all the details of the Public Loan Forgiveness Program.
As a small thank you to our men and women in uniform, the IRS has a program called Free File that offers free tax preparation for military members with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $54,000. Most military installations also have volunteers who offer free tax filing help to all active duty members as well as retirees. Check your local base for more information.
You can now get up to $2,760 per year in tax-free transportation benefits from your employer. The stimulus package almost doubled the amount of tax-free transportation benefits you can receive from your employer, from $120 per month to $230 per month. Learn how to take advantage of this free tax prep for military members. You won't pay federal or payroll taxes on these benefits, which can include transit passes, vouchers or fare cards, commuter parking costs, van-pooling and more.
On the heels of the popular Cash for Clunkers program, the government plans a new program focused on appliances. EnergyStar products -- you've surely seen that yellow label on new appliances -- use 10-30% less energy than regular models. In an effort to spur lagging large appliance sales and improve energy efficiency, the government is offering rebates when you buy a new appliance. Last year Americans saved more than $19 billion on energy bills thanks to energy star products. Details are still a little sketchy, but here is what we know: There is $300 million to be awarded by November and the program should start late this year or early next. Each state will receive $1 per state resident. The rebate is expected to be between $50-$200 for qualifying purchases. We'll be sure to give you all the details the minute they are finalized.