Donations to charity not only support your favorite causes or contribute to your friends and loved ones walks, runs, or other fundraising efforts, they’re also a tax deduction. If you donate a lot, or regularly, it can be a fairly significant tax break. However, in order to claim the tax deduction, you need to have the right documentation in the form of either a bank record or other written communication from the charitable organization for donations of any amount. For donations larger than $250, a written acknowledgement is necessary.
Things to Know about Written AcknowledgementsThese acknowledgements are only required for donations of $250 or more. One acknowledgement can list each $250 donation in an itemized fashion, or the organization may provide you with a different acknowledgement for each $250 donation. However, if your total donations for the year to a single organization are more than $250, but each donation is less than that amount, a written acknowledgement is not necessary.
Keep in mind that donations made through payroll deductions are considered a separate donation each time. In addition, acknowledgements must be dated or accompanied by a bank record receipt that does show the date.
Keeping these receipts, letters of acknowledgement, and other documentation organized may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s well worth the time when you see how much you save on your taxes.
Organizing Your Charitable Deduction PaperworkDuring the year, it can be tempting to through all your tax deduction paperwork into a shoe box and deal with it later. Unfortunately, this only serves to create a mess you have to sort through later. Instead, consider using a more efficient organization system throughout the year to save yourself frustration later.
File folders, accordion files, and properly sorted filing cabinets are all great ways to approach organizing your charitable donation paperwork. Also, use staples to keep receipts and matching acknowledgement letters together. Paperclips can fall off or become entangled with other papers in the same file.
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Open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2018 begins in November. With the change in power in Washington DC, there’s a fair amount of confusion regarding the enrollment process, eligibility and pricing. Thankfully for the millions of Americans who don’t receive health insurance through their employer, the ACA was not repealed, despite the GOP’s best efforts.
Instead, Trump slashed the advertising budget for the open enrollment period by 90%! The administration also halved the budget for trained professionals who assist people in signed up for coverage. Finally, the GOP has been hard at work trying to convince Americans that plans will be too expensive. Despite these efforts to make accessing affordable health insurance more difficult, the truth is that affordable health insurance is more accessible than ever before. And it’s in such high demand that Congress is now working to fix ACA rather than repeal it. Let’s look at a few specific, scary myths.
Please note: even though open enrollment is only a few weeks away, things are constantly in flux. These myths and truths are current for the moment, but stay tuned as things continue to develop.
ACA Myth 1: There will be fewer insurers to choose from this year.
TRUTH: Yes, a number of insurers have pulled out of ACA marketplaces. However, other companies have stepped in to replace them. As of August 2017, every county in America will have access to at least one insurer in 2018. In addition, more than half of the ACA marketplaces will have access to at least two insurers. And whether you have access to one, two, or several, each insurer in the marketplace must offer at least Silver and Gold level plans. So there’s choices no matter where you are.
As far as Trump cutting the budget for professionals to help you sign up – there’s still help available at healthcare.gov you can search for a list of places locally to assist you. In New Hampshire, HealthNH.com connects you to a live person who can review all your options and help you make an informed decision.
ACA Myth 2: It’s too expensive
TRUTH: While it’s true that some insurers are seeking approval for double-digit rate hikes, don’t panic. Around 85% of people who buy insurance through the ACA exchanges get some form of subsidy. In addition, people who opt for a Silver plan frequently receive additional benefits to cover out of pocket costs like deductibles and co-pays.
ACA Myth 3: You won’t have to pay a penalty if you don’t buy in
TRUTH: There was some debate about this in the Trump administration, however, the IRS has reaffirmed that it will collect penalties from those who don’t sign up as is their right in the current mandate. The penalty is assessed as part of April tax filings and is $695/person or up to $2,085/household. Last year, the IRS collected nearly $3 billion in penalties from 4 million Americans.
Remember to sign up for my newsletter and stay tuned because the administration continues to seek ways to make changes to the existing legislation and likely will right up until open enrollment begins.
Looking for physical items amongst a cluttered desk or table is always frustrating. That same aggravation occurs when trying to find an important file or email on your computer, phone, or other device. Thankfully, with some organization tips, you can reign in the digital clutter and save yourself time and frustration while finding the data you need.
Start off by deciding on the categories of files and emails you’re dealing with. For example, you may have a photos category with sub categories of family, pets, business, etc. Or you may group them by client or supplier. Figure out the categories that make the most sense for your needs.
Make and Use Digital FoldersUsing these categories and subcategories, create matching folders in your email browser and the places you save your documents. If you have subcategories create those as folders within the larger category folders. Next, use them by sorting existing files and emails appropriately and then continue to use them going forward.
Librarians have long used naming conventions to organize all the material under their purview. They use the same concepts with digital collections – and so can you. Develop a naming structure that makes sense for your needs. For example, photos can be named by the place and date and documents can be given names that indicate their topic and/or client. Whatever makes the most sense for you.
Automate Email Organization
As you can imagine, trying to keep up with organizing your email can get laborious if you do it manually. The great news is that you can automate it! Most email services allow you to set up rules determining the location for emails as they come in based on who sent it or subject matter. So, emails from your boss or important clients get automatically filtered and you can see and address them more quickly.
Because digital items don’t take up physical space, it’s really easy to let them accumulate. Start small by deleting blurry photos, duplicates, poorly lit or poor quality photos and videos, any digital files that are no longer meaningful to you. You may be surprised how much storage space you free up, which can save you money.
Back Up Everything
Now that your digital life is under control, back up everything to the cloud. Google Drive is a great way to do this. And set up a schedule to ensure everything stays backed up. Hardware can fail without warning, but as long as your files are backed up, you won’t lose much time if that happens.
Digital clutter can feel overwhelming and may cause stress. In addition, spending time searching isn’t the best use of time. Using these tips, you can get your digital files under control and be more efficient.
As they say on Game of Thrones, “winter is coming.” In that fantasy world, it also brings new enemies and lasts for years. Thankfully, even the harshest New England winter isn’t quite that dramatic. The coming of cooler weather does mean it’s time to swap your closet from t-shirts and tank tops to long sleeves and sweaters. This is often a frustrating and back breaking process. One that also usually winds up leaving you with wrinkled clothes in a fairly disorganized mess. One small tweak can make storing off season clothes a lot easier.
If you’re like most people, you shove your off season clothes into several large plastic tubs or garbage bags and then toss them in the attic or basement. Not only does this wrinkle your clothes, they’re heavy to move and difficult to store. In addition, all your clothes are mixed together, which makes it tough to find something on that random warm day when you need just one t-shirt.
Solve this by switching to smaller storage containers. Smaller bins are easier to carry and store easily in the back of closets. Group like items together in the same small bin and label each one so you’ll be able to pull out just the t-shirts as the temperatures begin to warm up. This same idea works well if you have a lot of holiday themed clothes. Storing them neatly in small bins keeps them out of your way during the rest of the year and reduces clutter.
Other Clothes Storage Tips
If you have clothes that need repair such as pants that need a button reattached or a skirt that needs to be hemmed, don’t store them. They’ll still need to be fixed when you pull them out in the spring. Instead, put them in a separate pile and address the repairs or alterations.
Similarly, don’t store clothes that are stained or ripped. If you’re not going to wear them again, toss them. If you’re going to remove the stain or patch the tear, set the item aside and then actually do the repair. After all, there’s no point in taking up space with clothes you’ll fix “someday.” If you really want them to remain a part of your wardrobe, you’ll do what needs to be done to make them wearable again. Not sure? Here’s how you know it’s time to get rid of your clothes.
With one tweak and some planning, storing your off season clothes can be much less frustrating and set you up to be more organized this spring. For more great tips like this, subscribe to the newsletter.