LIVING WELL: Preparing for tax season is half the battle
by Cecelia Hostilo, Columnist
Jan 15, 2014 | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now is the time when we start thinking about filing our income taxes from the previous year. Even though it’s an annual event, it can cause anxiety for many. By preparing now, you can ease the process for yourself and your tax preparer.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks everyone by their Social Security number. Make sure you have your number and that of your spouses if filing jointly, plus the number(s) of your dependent(s). In addition to your W-2 or like form, you want to include information about any interest you earned from savings accounts, stocks or mutual funds as these are also taxable.

One of the largest deductions many people can claim is mortgage interest. If you have a mortgage, you should get a 1098 form from your lender specifying how much interest you paid in the last year. You will also want to remember any documentation for any additional deductions you may have, such as property taxes paid and charitable donations made within the past year. Common forms of documentation for charitable donations include a cancelled check if you gave a monetary donation or an itemized receipt if you donated clothes or other goods.

Your goal should be to break even at tax time, which means you don’t receive a big refund from the state or federal government or you don’t have to write a big check to either or both.

Every year, thousands of taxpayers will get refunds. While some consider overpaying in taxes on their paycheck a form of forced savings, you may want to consider how you could use this money throughout the year. The extra money could help you with such things as building your personal savings or emergency fund, making an extra house payment or paying off debt. To change your tax withholding, you will need to file a new W-4 form with your employer.

Many tax preparers advertise immediate money through tax refund advance services. However, these may not be the best idea for many. A fee is usually assessed in exchange for the quick cash. Tax refund advances are similar to a payday loan, and both are some of the most expensive ways to borrow money. According to the Consumer Action website, annual percentages rates can range from 50 to 500 percent on tax refund advances. A tax advance refund, or rapid refund, is a loan. If for some reason your refund is less than anticipated, you could end up paying the difference between the two and possibly additional fees or interest. Perhaps a better way to get your refund quickly is to electronically file your taxes as early as possible and have it deposited directly into your checking account. By doing so, you could have your refund as soon as 10 days later.

If you owe the IRS money this year, you may want to consider changing your withholding status with your employer so more money can be taken out throughout the year, so you’re not hit with a big payment next year. If you owe taxes but don’t have the money to pay due to unemployment or a reduction in work in the past year, you may qualify for the IRS’s Fresh Start program, which may allow you to repay your debt in installments without failure-to-pay penalties. There are income and tax limits associated with this program. For more information on it, visit http://www.irs.gov.

Be wary if you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be from the IRS, who notifies you of an “IRS e-audit.” You might be asked to fill out a questionnaire, including Social Security number, bank account numbers and other personal information. You may be given only 48 hours to complete the questionnaire to avoid penalties and interest. This type of scam also could be conducted by a stranger calling you on the telephone. Do not give out this information. The IRS does not conduct “e-audits” and does not notify taxpayers of audits by e-mail. It also does not ask for this type of confidential information. If you receive such an e-mail or telephone call, immediately notify the IRS office in your area.

I hope this information helps to ease the pain of tax season! The recipes included at the end of this column are light versions of some favorite desserts. They are from Cooking Light 1987 published by Oxmoor House. Even though they are over 25 years old, they are still great recipes. We know have more information about fats and you may be able to reduce the cholesterol even more by using canola oil and spray instead of vegetable oil and spray. Enjoy!

For more information contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269.

Spicy Applesauce Cake Squares

1⁄2 cup sugar

1⁄4 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vegetable cooking spray

Combine sugar, oil, and egg in a medium bowl; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until well blended. Combine flour , soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt in a small bowl; add to sugar mixture, beating well. Stir in applesauce and vanilla.

Spoon batter into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely and cut into squares.

Yield: 9 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 197 calories; 7 g fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 80 mg sodium; 31 g carbohydrate; 1.2 g fiber; 3.2 g protein

Orange Carrot Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup frozen unsweetened orange juice, thawed and undiluted

1 cup grated carrots

Vegetable cooking spray

1 1⁄2 teaspoons sifted powdered sugar

Combine flour, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Combine eggs, granulated sugar, oil, and orange juice concentrate in a large bowl; beat well. Add flour mixture and carrots, stirring well.

Spoon batter into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake completely in pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut into squares to serve.

Yield: 9 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 212 calories; 9.5 g fat; 61 mg cholesterol; 96 mg sodium; 28.8 g carbohydrate; 3.4 g protein

Spicy Zucchini Bars

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoons ground cloves

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1⁄2 cup vegetable oil

1⁄2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 (8-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1⁄2 cups shredded zucchini

Vegetable cooking spray

2 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar

Combine flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl; mix well and set aside. Combine eggs, oil, sugar, yogurt, and vanilla in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in zucchini; add flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Pour batter into a 13” x 9” baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into bars.

Yield: 36 bars

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 75 calories; 3.2 g fat; 40 mg sodium; 8.5 g carbohydrate; 1.4 g fiber

Information for this article was provided by Jennifer Hunter and Robert Flashman, UK Extension Specialists for Family Resource Management

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.
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