Welcome to Rich is Not a Four-Letter Word, the podcast for your wallet. I'm Gerri Willis with the Fox Business Network. Tax Day 2019 is fast approaching and this year, more than ever, you'll want to take special care with your filing as this is the first year that tax reform takes effect. Kathy Pickering, executive director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block, says tax filers should be prepared for many changes.

First off, tax rates were lowered across the board in every tax bracket. New marginal tax rates go from 10%, 12%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6% to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. Check out https://taxfoundation.org/2019-tax-brackets/ for bracket details.

Here are the takeaways:

  • While many people were looking for a big refund, the reality is that refunds are about on par for a normal year. If you failed to change withholding to account for the tax rate changes, however, you could find yourself owing money to the federal government rather than getting that refund, she says. Pickering said it was easy to overlook the difference in income because the savings were spread out over the course of the year. A secondary goal of reform was to encourage filers to complete the short form rather than taking deductions. Any reliable tax software package can help you decide whether to skip the long form.
  • Small business owners should be sure to take advantage of a new 20 percent deduction on qualified business income. Business owners with 2018 income below $157,500 if single or $315,000 if married and filing jointly may qualify.  The tax break applies to owners of "pass-through" entities, including sole proprietorships, S-corporations and partnerships.
  • Finally, Pickering suggests watching the details of your filing. Avoid simple mistakes like failing to sign your form, or getting the incorrect names or social security numbers for members of blended families.

If you can't make your payment in full, file for an extension using IRS form 4868. This will give you until Oct. 15 to file, but even so, you'll have to make at least a partial payment on your tax bill.

H&R Block research, she says, shows that anxiety associated with tax season runs high. That may be why respondents in an H&R survey said their favorite companion when filling out tax forms is a glass of wine.

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