How to Fill Out Gift Tax Form 709

How to Fill Out Gift Tax Form 709

Form 709 is the way to report to the IRS any gifts made in the prior year that are subject to the gift tax. Don’t worry, though. Most people will never pay any taxes on gifts made over the course of their lives.

The annual gift tax exemption amount is fairly substantial; the lifetime gift tax exemption is stratospheric.

In any given year, you may give gifts under the annual threshold to an unlimited number of people and be free from filling out IRS gift tax Form 709. If you do need to report one or more gifts, again, you’re probably never going to have to pay gift taxes.

What Counts Toward the Gift Tax?

For taxpayers filing in 2023, the gift tax applies to anything worth over $16,000 that they gave another person while receiving nothing, or less than full value, in return.

Whether it’s cash, real estate, stocks, or the use of or income from property, the recipient must be able to have full and immediate access to the gift for the gift to qualify for the annual exclusion.

For gifts of over $16,000 per person, you can apply an amount you gift to the current lifetime estate tax exemption of $12.06 million (if you’re married, your spouse is allowed the same).

Gifts can include assets in any class or type of income, such as:

•   Real estate (including a down payment gift for a first home)

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Digital assets

•   Cryptocurrencies

•   NFTs

•   Loans made with rates below IRS “applicable federal rates”

•   Transfer of benefits of an insurance policy

•   Student loan payments or other debt payments made for another person

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Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity?

What Is the Annual Gift Tax Exemption?

For tax year 2022 (taxes filed in 2023), you could have given any number of people up to $16,000 each without incurring a taxable gift ($32,000 for spouses “splitting” gifts). That is up from $15,000 in tax year 2021.

You do not have to file Form 709 for a gift you made worth up to $16,000.

The annual gift tax exclusion rose to $17,000 per recipient in tax year 2023, and the lifetime exemption to $12.92 million per individual.

You can log all of your largesse in a spending app that tracks financial goals.

Examples of Gift Tax Rules in Action

Let’s say you gave $116,000 to your mother in 2022 for her birthday. You would report $100,000 of the gift to the IRS, but federal tax law provides you with that unified gift and estate tax exemption ($12.06 million for tax year 2022) to offset any gift tax you may owe.

A married couple you know has three children and five grandchildren they like to shower with generosity. Each spouse may give eight gifts of $17,000 in 2023 to their family members without touching their combined $25.84 million lifetime gift tax exemption or filling out Form 709.

You want to buy a house from a family member. The sale price must equate to what it would be between strangers unless the seller provides a gift of equity — the difference between the selling price and the home’s current market value.

The relative could give you a gift of equity worth the annual exemption ($17,000 in 2023, or $34,000 for spouses “splitting” gifts) without reporting that sum to the IRS. (Another perk: Most lenders will allow the gift to count as the down payment in a non-arm’s-length transaction.) In this example, the seller must report any gift of over $17,000, or $34,000 for spouses, and apply it to their lifetime gift tax exclusion.

Recommended: How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund?

Does the Giver or Recipient Fill Out Form 709?

Form 709 is filled out by the giver of the gift. The donor is also responsible for paying the tax, whether it’s when the gift was given or after the giver’s death.

However, it is possible that the recipient may have to pay the tax if the donor does not.

How to Fill Out Form 709

Understanding what each part means and how to calculate the tax can be difficult. There are a lot of rules and exceptions to understand. When filling out Form 709, getting help from a tax professional is a good idea.

Form 709 is actually called the Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. The generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT) exemption applies to certain gifts that skip a generation (or are transferred to anyone more than 37.5 years younger than the donor), such as a gift from a grandparent to a grandchild. It also includes trusts.

The GSTT exemption is separate from the gift and estate tax exemption.

Determine If You Are Required to Fill Out Form 709

You do not need to fill out Form 709 if you made contributions for the following reasons:

•   Payments made that qualify for the medical exclusion

•   Payments made that qualify for the tuition exclusion

•   Payments or transfers made to certain political parties or charities

•   Payments to spouses, except for gifts over $164,000 made to non-U.S. citizen spouses (for 2022) and $175,000 (for 2023)

To reiterate, gifts under the annual exclusion amount ($16,000 per person in tax year 2022) do not need to be reported on Form 709.

For couples splitting gifts, if either spouse makes a gift that exceeds the couple’s combined annual gift tax exclusion, or if each spouse makes gifts that exceed the individual annual gift tax exclusion, both spouses will need to file a Form 709, and each will need to provide consent to split gifts on the other spouse’s return.

Each gift tax return should also disclose one-half of the amount over the combined annual gift tax exemption as a lifetime gift.

Part 1: General Information

The first part to fill out is your general information, which is the same as when you’re filing taxes for the first time or you’ve been filing for years. This includes your name, address, and whether or not you elect to split gifts between you and a spouse.

Schedule A

Head to the next page to fill out Schedule A, a computation of taxable gifts, including transfers in trust.

The filer must include information about the gift recipient, a description of the gift, and the value of the gift. Reporting taxable gifts is divided into:

•   Part 1: Gifts subject only to gift tax

•   Part 2: Direct skips

•   Part 3: Indirect skips and other transfers in trust

•   Part 4: Taxable Gift Reconciliation

Schedules B, C, D

Next, fill out Schedules B, C, and D (if applicable). Schedule B is for gifts from prior periods; Schedule C is for claiming unused amounts of the exclusion for a deceased spouse; and Schedule D is for computation of generation-skipping transfer tax.

Part 2: Tax Computation

You’ll enter amounts from Schedules A, B, C, and D back on the first page of Form 709. Your tax return preparation software or professional will calculate the amount of gift tax owed.

If filing a paper return, you’ll need to use the Table for Computing Gift Tax found in the instructions.

The executor of a decedent’s estate will use Form 706 to decide whether any estate tax is owed. Form 706 is also used to compute the GSTT on direct skips.

Recommended: What Tax Bracket Am I In?

The Takeaway

Understanding annual and lifetime gift tax exemptions is easy, but filling out Gift Tax Form 709 may require help from a professional. Remember that you can make an unlimited number of gifts valued at less than the annual limit and skip reporting them to the IRS.

How to log gifts you make and track your spending, debt, and investments? A free money tracker app like SoFi Insights allows you to connect all of your accounts on one mobile dashboard.

SoFi Insights also includes credit score monitoring.

See your total financial landscape and get insights at no cost. Now that’s a gift.

FAQ

Do I file Form 709 with my tax return?

Yes, Form 709 is filed with your federal tax return if you exceeded the annual gift tax exclusion.

What happens if I don’t fill out Form 709?

According to the IRS, filers who are required to fill out Form 709 but do not may be subject to penalties and criminal prosecution.

An audit could reveal a gift not reported. A generous gift might just stick out like a sore thumb. If you’re running behind, file Form 8892 by Tax Day for an automatic six-month extension of time to file Form 709 when you are not applying for an extension to file your individual income tax return.

What should I include with Form 709?

Include all gifts in excess of the annual threshold that were given during the tax year and that need to be reported to the IRS.

Do you have to file Form 709 every year?

IRS Form 709 must be filed every year that gifts worth more than the excluded amount were made. For tax year 2022, that’s any gift given by an individual that was over $16,000 in value; for 2023, it’s gifts over $17,000. Couples may “split” gifts.


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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Tax Refund Schedule for Tax Years 2022 and 2023

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Tax Refund Schedule for Tax Years 2022 and 2023

The earned income tax credit directly reduces the amount of income tax owed by lower-income working taxpayers. Depending on a tax filer’s number of children, tax filing status, and income, the tax credit can be in the thousands.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 EITC tax refund schedule and the 2023 EITC numbers.

Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity?

What Is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

The earned income tax credit, also known as the earned income credit (EIC), is a credit that low- to moderate-income workers can claim on their tax returns to reduce federal income tax owed.

Singles or married couples must have some form of earned income to qualify. Above a certain income level, they aren’t eligible for the credit. The number of qualifying children is also a key component of the tax credit.

The credit ranges from $560 to $6,935 for the 2022 tax year (taxpayers filing by April 18, 2023) and from $600 to $7,430 for 2023.

For those filing federal returns in 2023, the maximum allowable adjusted gross income (AGI) is $59,187 for a married couple filing jointly who have three or more children. Tables with amounts for the tax credit and maximum AGI are in the next section.

At the very least, the EITC reduces the amount of tax owed. At best, low-income people who have little or no income tax liability can receive the total credit in the form of a tax refund.

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Recommended: Are Student Loans Tax Deductible?

How Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Work?

The EITC is a fairly complicated credit, even for taxpayers who are not filing taxes for the first time. In fact, the IRS sees errors in close to 25% of tax returns claiming it. Online tax filing software can help. The IRS also offers an “EITC Assistant” calculator.

The amount of the credit depends on the tax filer’s number of qualifying children, filing status, and earned income or AGI. (AGI is defined as gross income — including wages, dividends, capital gains, business income, and retirement distributions — minus adjustments to income, which can be student loan interest, contributions to a retirement account, educator expenses, or alimony payments.)

Investment income must be $10,300 or less in 2022 ($11,000 or less in 2023).

On your tax form, the credit is filed under the “payments” section, which is a way for the credit to be directly applied dollar for dollar to any income tax you owe.

Workers receive the credit beginning with their first dollar of earned income. The amount of the credit rises with earned income until it reaches a maximum level. Then it begins to phase out at higher income levels.

Taxpayers with earned income or AGI above a certain level won’t qualify for the tax credit at all. These amounts are listed below for tax years 2022 and 2023.

Tax Year 2022 EITC Tax Refund Schedule

Number of children or dependents

Maximum earned income tax credit

Maximum AGI for single, head of household, or widowed filers

Maximum AGI for married joint filers

0 $560 $16,480 $22,610
1 $3,733 $43,492 $49,622
2 $6,164 $49,399 $55,529
3 or more $6,935 $53,057 $59,187

Phaseout amount begins at:

•   Single, head of household, or widowed: $9,160 for no children; $20,130 with qualifying children.

•   Married filing jointly: $15,290 for no children; $26,260 with qualifying children.

Tax Year 2023 EITC Tax Refund Schedule

Number of children or dependents

Maximum earned income tax credit

Maximum AGI for single, head of household, or widowed filers

Maximum AGI for married joint filers

0 $600 $17,640 $24,210
1 $3,995 $46,560 $53,120
2 $6,604 $52,918 $59,478
3 or more $7,430 $56,838 $63,398

Phaseout amount begins at:

•   Single, head of household, or widowed: $9,800 for no children; $21,560 with qualifying children.

•   Married filing jointly: $16,370 for no children; $28,120 with qualifying children.

Who Qualifies for the EITC?

To qualify for the EITC, you must have earned income and meet certain AGI requirements.

Types of income include:

•   W-2 wages from employment

•   Self-employment (or gig or freelance) earnings

•   Certain disability benefits

•   Benefits from a union strike

•   Nontaxable combat pay

You do not have to include income from the following sources:

•   Social Security

•   Child support or alimony

•   Unemployment benefits

•   Pensions or annuities

•   Interest and dividends

•   Pay as a prison inmate

What Are ‘Qualifying Children’?

To claim a child for the EITC, a qualifying child must have a valid Social Security number, meet the four tests of a qualifying child, and cannot be claimed by more than one person.

The four tests for a qualifying child are:

•   Age: A qualifying child can be of any age if they are permanently and totally disabled; under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than you; or under age 24 at the end of the year and a full-time student for at least five months of the year and younger than you.

•   Relationship: A qualifying child can be a son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepsister, stepbrother, grandchild, niece, or nephew.

•   Residency: The child lived with you in your home for more than half the year.

•   Joint return: The child is not filing a joint return with anyone, such as a spouse, to claim any tax credits like the EITC.

Recommended: How Long Does It Take for the IRS to Send Refunds?

Can You Claim the EITC If You Have No Children?

It is possible to claim the EITC if you have no children, but the income threshold is very low and the credit is small.

For tax year 2022, the maximum credit is $560 for filers without children. The maximum adjusted gross income is $16,480 for taxpayers filing as single, head of household, or widowed and $22,610 for married couples filing jointly.

For tax year 2023, the maximum credit is $600. The income figures are in the table above.

Requirements include:

•   A valid Social Security number

•   Not filing Form 2555 (foreign earned income)

•   Main home is in the U.S. for more than half the year

•   Not claimed as a dependent or qualifying child on another tax return

•   You are at least 19 (or 24 if you were at least a part-time student for at least five months of the year, or at least 18 if you are a former foster child after turning 14 or a homeless youth)

There are also special qualifying rules for clergy, members of the military, and taxpayers and their relatives who receive disability payments.

Recommended: Do You Qualify for the Home Office Tax Deduction?

How the EITC Can Affect When You Receive Your Refund

Your tax refund may be delayed if you claim the EITC and file early in the year. The IRS is required to wait until mid-February to issue refunds when the EITC is claimed.

Expect a tax refund by March 1, assuming there were no issues with your tax return and you opted for direct deposit, the IRS says.

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Common Errors to Avoid When Claiming the EITC

The IRS lists five snags to avoid when claiming the earned income credit.

1.    Your child doesn’t qualify: The IRS states that most errors occur because the child doesn’t meet the four requirements relating to relationship, residency, age, and filing status.

2.    More than one person claimed the child: Only one person can claim the qualifying child. If the child counts as a qualifying child for more than one person (such as separated or divorced parents), the IRS has some guidelines on how to choose which person can claim the qualifying child.

3.    Social Security number or last name doesn’t match card: The Social Security number and name must be exactly how they appear on the Social Security card.

4.    Married and filed as single or head of household: Taxpayers cannot claim the EITC if they are married and file as single or head of household.

5.    Over- or underreported income or expenses: Be sure to include all types of income from IRS Forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-MISC, 1099-NEC, and other income unless it’s one of the exceptions listed above.

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The Takeaway

The EITC offers income tax relief for lower-income workers. If you think you might qualify, look at the EITC tax refund schedules, seek tax help if you need to, and file electronically for a speedier refund.

While filing taxes isn’t most people’s idea of fun, a free money tracker app can make keeping your financial house in order much easier.

SoFi Insights free budget app will allow you to track your credit score, keep tabs on your cash flow and spending habits (plus find ways to save), monitor your credit usage, and see the paydown progress on your loans.

Take credit for good decisions, like signing up for SoFi Insights.

FAQ

When should I expect my EITC refund?

According to the IRS, a refund with an EITC will arrive around March 1 if you filed electronically and elected for direct deposit, and there were no issues with your return. By law, the IRS cannot issue a tax refund with an EITC before mid-February.

Most taxpayers of all stripes who file electronically should get a refund within 21 days, the IRS said in January 2023.

Will there be an EITC in 2023?

Yes, there is an EITC for 2023. It rises to a maximum of $7,430 for the 2023 tax year.

Will tax refunds be bigger in 2023?

No, not in general. Many taxpayers could see significantly smaller refunds in 2023, the IRS says, thanks to the expiration of expanded tax credits that served as pandemic relief. For the EITC, a taxpayer with no children who received an earned income credit of $1,502 in 2021 will receive a credit of $560 for tax year 2022 ($600 for 2023).


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SoFi’s Insights tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
*Terms and conditions apply. (Must click on the link to be eligible.) This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the Rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed into SoFi accounts such as cash in SoFi Checking and Savings or loan balances, Stock Bits, fractional shares and cryptocurrency subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Wedding Budget Breakdown: Line Item by Line Item

8 Tips for a Budget Dream Wedding with Budget Breakdown

The prospect of getting hitched often gives a couple butterflies — about their enormous wedding budget. But marrying your special someone doesn’t have to mean going into debt. A wedding budget breakdown can help you prioritize which elements matter most to you, so you can achieve the wedding of your dreams without going overboard.

We’ll review the average cost of common wedding items big and small, mistakes to avoid, and cost-cutting tips that will make the whole process easier on your wallet and your peace of mind.

Average Cost of a Wedding

Based on their survey of 15,000 couples who wed in 2021, wedding planning site The Knot projects that the average cost of a wedding in 2022 will be $28,000. That figure doesn’t include the wedding ring, which they claim typically costs around $6,000.

In real life, the average cost of a wedding varies widely based on location. In Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, wedding expenses total around $16,000. Over in New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., the big day exceeds $40,000.

We’ve rounded up the items that will account for most of your wedding budget.

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Major Costs to Include in Your Wedding Budget Breakdown

Keep in mind that the numbers below reflect average costs nationwide. Yours may be more or less depending on where you live, your taste, and your income.

Average Wedding Costs

Venue $10,700
Engagement Ring $6,000
Live Music $4,300
Photographer $2,500
Rehearsal Dinner $2,300
Flowers $2,300
Videographer $1,900
Wedding Dress $1,800
DJ $1,400
Invitations $530
Wedding Cake $500
Favors $450
Bride’s Hair Stylist $130
Bride’s Makeup $115
Catering $75/person

Mind you, these are the costs incurred by and for the bride and groom. The groomsmen and bridesmaids will incur their own costs for being in the wedding.

Figure Out What You Can Afford

No one is born knowing how to plan a wedding. To set your wedding budget, start by asking yourself a few questions:

•   How much of your savings are you willing to use for your wedding?

•   Are your parents or other relatives planning to contribute financially?

•   How much can you reasonably save each month from your salary?

•   How long will it take to save the amount of money you need?

•   Is a wedding really worth the amount of money you want to spend on it?

Getting clarity on these answers will help you come up with a starting number.

Recommended: What Are the Tax Benefits of Marriage?

Typical Wedding Budget Allocation

Budget allocation involves assigning a percentage of your overall fund to each category. Use the percentages below to get a rough idea of how much you can pay for your venue, catering, etc. According to The Knot, a typical budget allocation looks like this:

Wedding Budget Allocation

Venue 30%
Catering 23%
Live Music 13%
Wedding Rings 7%
Alcohol 7%
Photographer 7%
Flowers 7%
Videographer 6%
Couple’s Attire 6%
Wedding Planner 5%
Lighting & Decor 5%
DJ 4%
Guest Entertainment 3%
Transportation 3%
Stationery 2%
Hair & Makeup 2%
Favors 1%
Cake or Desserts 1%
Officiant 1%
Other 5%

These numbers don’t add up to 100% because alternative options are offered for the same category, such as live music, DJ, or guest entertainment. In combination with the average wedding costs table above, you should be able to project your total budget without any major surprises.

Common Wedding Budget Mistakes to Avoid

•   Not budgeting enough. Many couples underestimate the amount of money they’ll spend on a wedding. When there’s no plan, everything becomes a priority and you’ll go through money faster than you can imagine. Be sure to make both a wedding budget and a savings plan to make it happen.

•   Not communicating with loved ones about the budget. If you have parents or other loved ones helping to cover expenses, be sure to have a conversation with them to avoid overestimating their contribution.

•   Not saving long enough. Once you know how much you’ll need, be realistic about how long it will take you to save that money. You may want to consider pushing back your wedding date to have enough time to save for it. (Too late to save up? Learn about wedding financing options.)

•   Going into debt. Many couples put wedding expenses on a credit card. If the balance isn’t paid off within the month, you’ll end up paying high interest rates on top of what you budgeted.

•   Forgetting to budget for unexpected costs. Surprise bills always come up. Keep a small amount reserved for unexpected wedding expenses.

•   Not keeping track of your spending. With wedding expenses, it’s easy to lose track of which bills you’ve paid. A spending app can help you monitor expenses and stick to your budget.

7 Cost-Cutting Tips When Planning a Wedding on a Budget

If your list of wedding expenses far exceeds your budget, don’t panic. Trimming your costs isn’t so hard if you know how to go about it. These ideas can help.

1. Limit Your Guest List

Consider shortening your guest list to include only close friends and family members. This can be a blessing in disguise for certain types of weddings. For instance, a destination wedding is especially difficult to coordinate for more than 100 people.

2. Host the Ceremony or Reception at Home or Outside

The wedding venue is often your biggest expense — unless you move the ceremony outside or to a private home. You can reserve a park pavilion for around $100. A permit to hold a wedding ceremony at a national park is around $385. Forgoing a fancy venue puts a lot of money back in your pocket.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait?

3. Source Second-Hand Items

Utilizing a few previously owned items is a real budget saver.

•   Wedding decor. Gently used decor is often sold online at a fraction of the cost. Keep your eye on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Etsy, for items that work with your theme.

•   Wedding dress. A wedding dress that costs thousands brand-new can be thrifted for a few hundred dollars. If you really want to save money, consider borrowing a dress from a good friend or family member.

4. Ask Friends and Family to Gift Their Skills

Do you have a photographer in your network? What about an aspiring caterer or florist? While it’s worth paying for their skills, you can also try exchanging something of value. Babysitting for busy parents is always a winner.

You can also ask for services in lieu of a gift. Tactfully articulate your desire to start your new life on a budget, while respecting their need to earn a living. If they say they can’t do it, don’t push.

5. DIY Whenever Possible

Many details that cost a fortune to outsource may be pulled together with the help of friends and family.

•   Centerpieces. Your table decor can be made ahead of time by the wedding party or a group of aunties.

•   Invitations. It’s so easy to make your own invitations. Even if you’re unskilled, you can use online tools like Canva to create your design. Save the result as a photo file for cheap printing. Image files cost as little as 19 cents to print. Compare that to formal invitations that typically cost several dollars each to print.

•   Catering. Know someone who makes an incredible main dish or specializes in smoked barbeque? They may be willing to help out for little more than the cost of groceries and supplies.

•   Flowers. Making your own bouquet from flowers sold at the farmer’s market or grocer is an easy way to save a lot of money. Check out a YouTube video tutorial and you’ll be on your way.

6. Use a Dummy Wedding Cake

A dummy wedding cake is one that is made just for appearance. It’s frosted to look like a real cake but underneath it’s just styrofoam or cardboard.

7. Time Your Wedding Strategically

Wedding season traditionally runs from May to October. This is when demand is highest — and prices too. If you can plan a wedding for the off-season (say, December or March) demand and prices are lower. You may be able to get the venue you want for the price you want.

8. Scout Out Vendors

While you’re saving money for the wedding, you might as well suss out suitable vendors and venues at other weddings. Make notes on what you like, and book services way ahead of time for a better deal.

Recommended: The 52-Week Savings Challenge

The Secret to the Wedding of Your Dreams

Your dream wedding doesn’t have to spawn a nightmare budget. Be mindful of what you really want and what you can really afford. If a backyard potluck is all it takes to make you happy, then don’t worry about what other people say you “should” do.

Do what you want — and feel great about sticking to a budget that frees up funds for other purposes, like your first home or a lengthy honeymoon. Because saving for a dream wedding is just the first step in a couple’s life together.

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The Takeaway

Budgeting for a wedding can help you start married life on the right foot financially. First, find out the average costs in your area for major wedding expenses — venue, catering, music, photography. Then determine how much money you can pull together from family, your current savings, and however many paychecks you’ll receive before the big day. Budget allocation (assigning a percentage of your funds to each category) can help you separate your wants from needs. For example, you may want a live band and sit-down dinner for 200, but you only need a DJ and lots of passed hors d’oeuvres. If you scrimp on some items, you can splurge on others.

The right tools can make budgeting a lot easier. SoFi Insights is a free money tracker app that offers a complete picture of your financial health. For saving, investing, and paying off debt, take a look at SoFi Insights.

SoFi Insights makes it easy to know where you stand, what you spend, and how to hit your financial goals — all in one app.

FAQ

How should your wedding budget be broken down?

Spend according to your values. If you value how you look, allocate a large portion of your budget to the dress, tuxedo, hair stylist, and makeup artist. If you value memories created by a video, allocate enough budget for that service. It all comes down to priorities. Spend more money on the things that are important to you, and save money on things that are incidental, and you’ll most likely be happy with your decisions.

What is a good budget for a simple wedding?

Since tastes and costs vary so much, it’s hard to offer an exact number for a simple wedding budget. Getting married doesn’t have to cost much more than the marriage license fee, but if you want to celebrate with loved ones, you’ll need to save money to make it happen. With a little creativity, it’s possible to make your wedding ideas come to life on any budget.

What is a low budget for a wedding on average?

For a low-budget wedding where no meals are provided for guests, plan on spending a few hundred dollars. At the very least, you need to pay a fee for a marriage license and an officiant. You can wear something you already have, eat a potluck meal, and take your own pictures — and it will still be magical.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

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Does Financing a Car Build Credit? How Car Loans Affect Credit

Does Financing a Car Build Credit? How Car Loans Can Affect Your Credit Score

If you’re like the millions of Americans who have an outstanding auto loan, you may be wondering how your car loan affects your credit. Applying for and having a car loan does affect your credit, as long as the loan is reported to one of the major credit bureaus.

Like with most other debt obligations, responsibly making on-time payments can help your credit score — in this, way financing a car can build credit. On the other hand, making late or missed payments can hurt your credit score, as can the hard pull of your credit report that potential lenders conduct when you apply for an auto loan.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

How Does Car Financing Work?

While it is possible to pay for a new car with cash, it’s common for many potential auto buyers to use car financing. You may get a car loan for the full purchase price, or make a down payment and get a loan for the rest of the amount.

The lengths of car loans vary but are commonly 48, 60, or 72 months. After making your payments for the balance of the loan, the loan is paid off and you take full ownership of the car.

Note that your car acts as collateral for an auto loan. This means that if you fail to repay the amount borrowed, the lender can take your car to recoup its losses.

How Financing a Car Can Affect Credit Positively

Most car loans are reported to the major credit bureaus, and your payment history and balance is usually included on your credit report. Making on-time payments on your car loan can have a positive impact on your credit. Potential lenders want to see a history of reliably paying your debts, and making payments on a car loan can help with establishing that.

Another factor that makes up your credit score is having a healthy mix of different types of credit. This can be another reason why having an active auto loan can help build credit, as it adds to the types of credit you have.

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How Financing a Car Can Affect Credit Negatively

Just as making on-time payments on your car loan can have a positive impact on your credit score, missed or late payments can affect your credit negatively.

Additionally, when you initially apply for an auto loan, the lender will conduct a hard pull on your credit report to verify your creditworthiness. This can drop your credit score by a few points, though those drops usually only last a few months. If you’re working with multiple lenders, keep in mind that hard credit pulls by multiple lenders in a short period of time will usually get combined.

And while paying down debt is often a good idea, paying off a car loan affects your credit in some additional ways. If you don’t have other debts or loans, it’s possible that paying off your loan can have a negative impact on your credit score. This is because your on-time payments no longer get reported, and you’ll have one fewer type of credit to your mix. Additionally, if you took out your car loan a while ago, paying it off can impact the average age of your open accounts, which also influences credit.

Factors That Influence Your Credit Score

The biggest factor that influences your credit score is your payment history. Potential lenders want to see that you reliably pay your debts, and making on-time payments is one way to show that. Other factors that influence your credit score are:

•   Your average age of accounts

•   Credit mix

•   How much you owe

•   How many recent inquiries appear on your credit report

Tips to Build Your Credit Score

If you’re wondering, ‘does a car payment build credit?’, then you’re likely hoping to boost your score. Here are some tips to consider to build credit:

•   Make sure that you always pay your bills on time.

•   As you apply for new debt or credit, only apply for loans that you know you have the financial ability and discipline to pay.

•   Aim to keep your credit utilization — the amount of your total credit you’re using — at 30% or lower. Having a higher credit utilization rate can negatively affect credit.

•   Remember to check your credit report at least once a year. Not only can this help you to monitor your credit health and understand the impacts of various activities on your credit, it can help you spot any errors or fraudulent activity.

Recommended: Credit Score Needed to Buy a Car

Mistakes to Avoid When Financing a Car

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when financing a car is applying for a higher loan amount than you can afford. When you take out a car loan, you’re making a multi-year commitment to make those monthly payments. If you take out a loan for more money than you can reasonably afford, you run the risk of destabilizing your overall financial situation and ending up in a situation where you make late payments or, even worse, miss payments.

Recommended: Average Payment for a Car

Is a Car Loan a Wise Option to Build Credit?

A car loan can be a good option to build up your credit. Remember, what potential lenders are looking for when they look at your credit report is a history of meeting your debt repayment obligations. A car loan that you regularly pay on-time can be a great way of showing that you are reliable.

Follow our tips for getting a car loan to give you a head start toward building your credit.

Other Ways to Build Credit

Aside from turning to car financing to build credit, here are a few other ways to build credit that you might consider.

Become an Authorized User

Another way that you can build credit is by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. When you are an authorized user on a credit card account, you’re not financially responsible for paying the statement, but it still shows up on your credit report. Keep in mind that how the primary account holder manages their account can affect your credit score, either positively or negatively.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Consider a Personal Loan

Another option to build credit is by taking out a personal loan. Unlike a car loan, which is considered a secured loan since the car itself acts as collateral for the lender, a personal loan is an unsecured loan. That means that there is no collateral for the lender to seize if you stop making payments.

In certain situations, this can make a personal loan a great option for building credit. In fact, if an auto loan isn’t the right option, you can consider getting a personal loan for a car.

Apply for a Credit Card

Responsibly using a credit card and paying it off in full each month is another way that you can establish credit. Your credit card balance and payment history are typically reported to the major credit bureaus.

Additionally, some credit cards, like the SoFi Credit Card, offer rewards, such as cash-back rewards, with each purchase. Those rewards can be a boost to your monthly budget.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?l

The Takeaway

If you take out an auto loan to buy a new or used car, it will typically get reported to the major credit bureaus. That means making on-time payments on your auto loan can help you build credit. Similarly, late or missed payments can have a negative impact on your credit score.

Applying for a credit card and making regular payments can be another way to build your credit. When you’re ready for a new credit card, consider a cash-back rewards credit card like SoFi’s credit card. With the SoFi credit card, you can earn unlimited cash-back rewards if you’re approved. You can use those rewards as a statement credit, invest them in fractional shares, or put them toward other financial goals you might have, like paying down eligible SoFi debt.

Apply for a SoFi credit card today!

FAQ

Does paying off a car loan help build credit?

While making regular payments on your car loan helps you build credit, paying off your car loan doesn’t always have the same impact. When you pay off your car loan, you no longer have the monthly payment history showing up on your credit report. Still, paying off a car loan can be a good financial move since it helps lower the total amount of your debt.

How can I keep my payment within my budget when financing a car?

The monthly payment amount of your car loan will depend on a variety of factors — the total purchase price of the car, your down payment, the length of the car loan and your interest rate. If you want to keep your monthly payment below the average payment for a car, you can get a cheaper car, make a higher down payment, or take out a longer loan. You can also work on raising your credit score to hopefully qualify for a lower interest rate.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

How fast can a car loan raise my credit score?

While taking out a car loan can possibly build your credit, you shouldn’t count on an immediate positive impact. In the short-term, it’s possible that your credit score may decrease from the new credit inquiries and the additional debt that shows up on your credit report. However, over time, making regular and on-time payments on your auto loan could improve your credit score.

Does leasing a car build credit?

Most lease payments are reported to the major credit bureaus. That means that regular, on-time payments can help you build your credit in a similar manner to buying a car with a car loan. However, if you make late payments or miss payments on your lease, it can have a negative impact on your credit score.


Photo credit: iStock/Zorica Nastasic

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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
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The Fastest Ways to Get Your Tax Refund

Learning that you are eligible for a tax refund can be a welcome surprise. Or maybe it’s something you’ve been hoping (or even waiting for) for months.

If you have any pressing expenses — maybe you’re behind on a few bills or have been putting off going to the dentist because of the cost — you may be wondering how you might be able to get that money into your hands ASAP.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things any taxpayer can do to help ensure that their refund comes quickly.

This includes e-filing with the IRS (rather than physically mailing in your return) and setting up direct deposit, so there’s no waiting for that refund check to come through the mail.

Read on to learn more about getting your tax refund sooner, including:

•   How to plan your tax return filing

•   How to file electronically

•   How to set up direct deposit

•   How to track your refund.

Quickest Ways to Get Your Tax Refund

Here are some key steps you may want to take as tax season gets underway, starting well before Tax Day in April. They’ll help ensure that you get your refund ASAP.

1. Start Planning Your Tax Return Filing in January

In general, the fastest way to get your tax refund is to file your taxes early, and you certainly don’t want to miss that tax-filing deadline.

This means that, starting in January, you may want to begin collecting all the necessary information for filling out your tax forms, such as your W-2 and any 1099s. You’ll also likely need to decide whether you are going to file on your own (perhaps using tax software) or hire a tax preparation service or accountant to help.

2. Get Your Return in ASAP

The further into tax season that you file, the more likely the IRS is to be inundated with returns. That can slow processing times, which can delay your refund.

If you followed Step 1, above, then you’ll have your documentation organized. All of the forms you need should be issued by January 31st.

If you prefer working with a professional tax preparer, it’s wise to book them in advance, since they’ll likely be very busy with other clients. If you plan to use tax software, buy it early and learn how to use it. You’ll be ready to be one of the first filers out of the starting gate.

3. File Your Tax Return Electronically

One of the fastest ways to get your refund can be to choose electronic filing instead of sending your return by mail.

That way, your refund can begin moving through the system immediately, rather than having to wind its way through snail mail and hands-on processing.

A paper tax return can take about six to eight weeks to process, but with electronic filing, or e-filing, taxpayers can typically expect to receive their refund within 21 days. Your tax preparer will usually offer ways for you to file electronically.

Taxpayers can also use tax preparation software such as TurboTax, TaxSlayer, TaxAct, or H&R Block. You can use these programs to file your taxes yourself, or you might go to a professional who knows how to use this type of software. Either way, electronic filing is probably an option.

4. Get Help Filing Your Return Quickly

But what if you don’t have funds for tax help and are feeling overwhelmed by the process and therefore don’t file right away? Fortunately, help is available. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a few options for e-filing which can help you get this task completed.

Most states offer free e-filing options for state returns.

If taxpayers make an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $73,000 or less per year, then they can use IRS Free File to turn in their tax forms.

For taxpayers whose AGI is greater than $73,000, they can use the IRS’s Free File Fillable Forms service, which lets you simply input your data onto your tax forms so you can e-file (if you choose this option, you’ll need to know how to prepare your own tax return).

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs also provide help and e-file for taxpayers who qualify.

Most states also offer free e-filing options for state returns.

The IRS has a helpful tool on their website where taxpayers can find an authorized IRS e-file Provider Locator. All taxpayers have to do is input their zip code and choose what kind of provider they need.

5. Set Up Direct Deposit

How else to get your refund fast? The speediest way to get your tax refund is to have it electronically deposited into your financial account. This is known as direct deposit, and the service is free. It’s also possible to break up your refund and have it deposited into one, two, or even three accounts.

You can set up direct deposit simply by selecting it as your refund method through your tax software and then inputting your account number and routing number (which you can find on your personal checks or through your financial institution).

Or, you can tell your tax preparer that you want direct deposit.

It’s also possible to select direct deposit if you’re filing by paper and sending your return through the mail (you may want to double check to make sure you didn’t make any errors inputting your financial account information). But remember, paper returns tend to move through processing more slowly.

6. Open a Bank Account If You Don’t Have One

If you just read the step above and thought you can’t use direct deposit because you don’t have a bank account, this could be the moment to set one up. Perhaps you haven’t gotten around to opening a checking or savings account. Now is a great moment to open one. Many online banks can guide you through the application and opening process online, from your home, in a minimal amount of time. This can be an excellent move as you prepare for tax season.

If you were previously turned down for a bank account, you might want to look into what are known as second chance accounts. Offered by some banks and credit unions, these may not have all the features of conventional accounts, but they can give you a good landing pad for your tax refund via direct deposit.

Recommended: What Are the Different Types of Taxes?

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When Can I Expect My Tax Refund?

As long as taxpayers have e-filed by the deadline and chosen direct deposit, then the refund should hit their account within three weeks. According to the IRS, nine out of 10 refunds arrive in less than 21 days. However, if you file a paper return, the timing will more likely be six to eight weeks.

And, remember, if you file later in the tax season, you might face processing delays. That’s because the volume of returns working their way through the IRS rises significantly. So being an early bird can be among the quickest ways to get your refund.

Recommended: What Is Income Tax Withholding?

Finding Out Where Your Refund Is

Once everything is filed, taxpayers can check their tax refund status on the IRS’s Where’s My Refund? page. This requires inputting your Social Security number or ITIN, filing status, and the exact amount of the refund, which can be found on the tax forms that were submitted.

Can I Track the Status of My Tax Refund?

Taxpayers can check “Where’s My Refund?” starting 24 hours after e-filing.

The site is updated daily, usually at night. The IRS cautions that you may experience delays in getting your refund if you file by mail, or you are responding to a notice from the IRS.

If it’s been more than 21 days and you still haven’t received your refund, you can call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 for help. You may also want to contact the IRS if “Where’s My Refund?” instructs you to do so.

Can You Get Your Tax Refund Back the Same Day?

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to get a tax refund back the same day. The speediest timing tends to be closer to eight days from e-filing to direct deposit of a refund.

However, if taxpayers are in a bind, some tax preparation services offer 0% interest tax-refund loans. Tax-refund loans, also called “refund advances,” allow you to access your refund early, but you may want to keep in mind that tax preparers typically charge fees for filing tax returns.

If taxpayers are in a bind, some tax preparation services offer 0% interest tax refund loans.

If you are paying a tax preparer just to get the advance, you’ll essentially be paying a company in order to access your refund. Consider these points:

•   Some providers may charge an additional fee for the advance service.

•   These short-term loans range from $200 to $4,000. In some cases, there may be a minimum amount your refund must meet in order to qualify for a refund advance (how much can vary from one company to another).

•   You may only get part of your expected refund in advance.

•   Some companies may offer to give you a prepaid card with the loan amount on it within 24 hours.

•   Once your tax refund is issued, the tax preparer will typically deduct the loan amount from your refund.

Also be aware that you may be offered this kind of quick cash from other non-bank lenders with significant fees. Proceed with caution.

If you’d rather not pay any fees, however, you may also want to look into other options.

•   If you have bills that are due, it may be worth calling up your providers or credit card companies to see if they can extend their due date while you are waiting for your refund.

•   You might open a 0% interest credit card, such as a balance transfer one, and charge an urgent expense on that card and then pay it off as soon as the refund comes in.

What’s the Best Way to Spend Your Tax Refund?

Finally! Your tax refund has arrived. You may wonder about the best way to use the funds. Yes, it can be tempting to splurge on a weekend away or those new boots you’ve had your eye on, but consider this financially-savvy advice first:

•   If you are carrying any high-interest debt, one smart move might be to put your tax refund towards minimizing the debt or, if possible, wiping it out all together. Doing this can help you avoid spending more money on interest charges. It may also help boost your credit score, which may help you qualify for loans and credit cards with lower interest rates in the future.

•   Or you might consider using your tax refund to jump-start one of your current savings goals, such as building up an emergency fund, a downpayment on a home, or buying a new car.

   For an emergency fund or savings goals you hope to accomplish within the next few years, you may want to put your refund in a high-yield savings account. These options typically offer a higher return than a traditional savings account but allow you easy access your money when you need it.

•   Your tax refund can also help you start saving for the longer term, such as retirement or paying for a child’s education. Using a tax refund to buy investments can help you create additional wealth over time to help fund these far-future goals.

The Takeaway

To get your tax refund as quickly as possible, it’s a good idea to file early, and, if possible, avoid the mail. That means filing electronically (using the IRS’s free service or tax software, or hiring a tax pro) and signing up for direct deposit when you file.

It’s also wise to keep track of your refund on the IRS site and reach out to the agency if you haven’t received your refund within three weeks.

3 Money Tips

1.    Direct deposit is the fastest way to get an IRS tax refund. More than 9 out of 10 refunds are issued in less than 21 days using this free service, plus you can track the payment and even split the funds into different bank accounts.

2.    When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.

3.    If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.

Better banking is here with up to 3.75% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

How can I receive my tax refund sooner?

To receive your tax refund as soon as possible (which typically means within three weeks of filing), file electronically and request that the refund be paid by direct deposit.

Is direct deposit faster than mail for tax refunds?

Direct deposit will typically save time versus a check sent by mail in terms of tax refunds. If you file your return electronically too, you’ll likely have the shortest possible time from finishing your return to receiving funds that are due to you.

When should you start planning to file your tax return?

Tax season begins in January, with the forms you need having to be sent by January 31st. It’s wise to start getting organized as soon as possible in the New Year to get your return done. If you work with a professional tax preparer, you might want to book them even earlier since January through April will be their busy season.


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SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.75% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 12/16/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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