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Tax Tip: Don’t Forget to Check Your Withholding

When was the last time you checked your tax withholding? Having the correct amount of tax withheld from your wages is an essential part of properly managing your taxes. The amount you withhold depends on your income, the number of children you claim on your return, and more.

The IRS has a helpful tool on their site called their Tax Withholding Estimator that can help you know if you have too much or too little tax withheld from your wages. Before using the tool, make sure you have all your paperwork handy, including your W2, 1099, 1095-A, and 1099-NEC, and any other forms you need to determine how much of your income is taxable.

* This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov5

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, January 20, 2021  

Weekly Market Insights: Recession Concerns Rising

Recession fears grew last week following weak earnings reports from major retailers, sending stocks lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.90%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 3.05%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 3.82% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, gained 0.84%.1,2,3

Trending Lower

Stock prices remained in a downtrend, capped by a sell-off on Wednesday following a succession of disappointing earnings reports from several major retailers. Despite solid April retail sales and industrial production data, weak economic numbers from China and shrinking profit margins at U.S. retailers fanned recession fears throughout the week.

Rising yields, which have been an overhang to the markets in recent weeks, turned lower as investors appeared to move cash to bonds from stocks. But lower yields did not help stock prices, which closed out the week with a volatile trading session.

Cloudy Picture with Retailers

Investors received a mixed message from the retail sector. April’s retail sales increased 0.9% from March, signifying that consumer spending remained strong. But it was difficult to determine from the retail sales report whether the increase was a function of higher retail prices or a resilient consumer.4

It was also a big week for earnings reports from some of the nation’s largest retailers. Results were disappointing as retailers struggled with supply chain issues, higher costs, and misaligned product mix. Some retailers indicated a drop in the number of transactions, suggesting that shoppers reduce purchases due to higher prices on essential items.

Footnotes and Sources

  1. The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2022
  2. The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2022
  3. The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2022
  4. The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2022

Tax Tip: Receive Your Tax Return Quicker With Direct Deposit

Want to receive your tax return quicker? The IRS shares that the best way to get your refund is to file your return online and provide your direct deposit info. In addition to receiving your refund quicker, there are a few other benefits of using direct deposit.

One benefit is splitting your refund into several financial accounts through direct deposit, including checking, savings, health and education, and certain retirement accounts. Using direct deposit is also fast, secure, and accessible. To sign up for a direct deposit, you need to provide your bank account number and routing number. Taxpayers should have this information available when ready to file because the IRS can’t accept this information after filing a return.

* This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov5

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, February 16, 2021

Weekly Market Insights: Inflation Takes Center Stage

In a volatile trading week, stocks extended their losses as economic growth and inflation concerns soured investor sentiment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.14%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 2.41%. The Nasdaq Composite index fell 2.80% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slumped 3.21%.1,2,3

A Turbulent Week

Inflation moved to center stage last week with the release of April’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Producer Price Index. Both numbers came near their 40-year highs but were lower than March’s year-over-year numbers. The results heightened investor anxiety about future Fed monetary tightening and its impact on economic growth.

In recent weeks, technology stocks have borne the brunt of the downdraft as investors lightened up on risk exposures, with some of the mega-cap tech names getting swept up in the selling pressure. Cooling import price increases buoyed spirits on Friday, helping spark a rally that reduced the week’s losses.

Inflation Stays Hot

Investors were greeted with a mixed CPI report, looking for signs that inflation may be cooling. Year-over-year costs rose 8.3%, slower than the previous month but faster than consensus estimates. Excluding food and energy, core inflation climbed 6.2%. Buried beneath the headline number was a 5.1% yearly increase in shelter costs, the most significant increase since 1991. Shelter costs account for one-third of the CPI.4

Inflation has been a weight on markets all year. Investors are concerned that the persistence of higher prices may tip the economy into recession as increased spending on essential needs crimps consumers’ spending power.

Footnotes and Sources

  1. The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2022
  2. The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2022
  3. The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2022
  4. CNBC, May 11, 2022

Tax Tip: You May Be Able to File Your State and Federal Tax Returns for Free

Taxpayers whose adjusted gross income was $72,000 or less may be able to file their federal taxes for free using IRS Free File and may also be able to do their state taxes at no charge through the same service. More than 20 states have their own state Free File program that is similar to the federal service.

IRS Free File partners also feature a number of helpful online products and through Free File, taxpayers can choose the Free File option, guided tax preparation, or Free File Fillable Forms. Make sure to filter for the free options because some additional services may have a charge.

* This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov6                                                                                                              

 

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, February 16, 2021

Weekly Market Insights: Tighter Money Policy; Market Drops

With the Fed in focus, the markets experienced wide price swings over the course of last week, as technology companies led the market lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.24%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 declined 0.21%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 1.54% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, fell 1.99%.1,2,3

A Wild Week

After successive daily gains to begin the week, stocks staged a powerful relief rally in response to Wednesday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announcement, aided by Fed Chair Powell’s comment that a 75-basis point hike was not under active consideration.

Stocks, however, dropped the following day as investors reassessed the implications of a tighter monetary policy. Also on Thursday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury Note closed above three percent. News that worker productivity fell 7.5% and labor costs rose 11.6% in the first quarter fanned inflation fears and added to investor unease. Despite a better-than-expected employment report, stocks closed out the week with another day of losses amid volatile trading.4

Fed Raises Rates

The May 2022 FOMC meeting resulted in an increase of 50 basis points in the federal funds rate, the largest rate increase since 2000. In a post-meeting press conference, Fed Chair Powell said additional 50 basis point hikes are likely, acknowledging that inflation was much too high and sending assurances that he was committed to price stability.

The Fed also announced that it would begin reducing its $9 trillion balance sheet by $95 billion a month, a step the markets had been anticipating.5

Footnotes and Sources

  1. The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2022
  2. The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2022
  3. The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2022
  4. CNBC, May 5, 2022
  5. CNBC, May 4, 2022

Tax Tip: Beware of Ghost Preparers

No, this isn’t an idea for your next Halloween costume. Ghost preparers are people who don’t sign the tax returns that they prepare, which is both unethical and illegal. All paid preparers must sign and include their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) on the return, and if they don’t, this is a big red flag. These preparers might also promise unrealistic refunds or charge fees based on the size of the refund.

If you use a tax preparer, always vet them wisely. The IRS also has a page dedicated to helping taxpayers choose a reputable tax professional on IRS.gov and a Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

* This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov5

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, February 17, 2021

Weekly Market Insights: Economy Slows; Stocks Retreat

On Friday, a sharp sell-off sent major stock market indices into negative territory for the week, capping a volatile close to April.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 2.47%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 tumbled 3.27%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 3.93% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, fell 3.33%.1,2,3

Stocks Slide

Trading was volatile in the final week of April as investors struggled with the crosscurrents of global economic growth anxieties stemming from widening COVID-related lockdowns in China and a fresh batch of corporate earnings reports.

Monday set the tone for the week. Stocks staged an intraday reversal, wiping out a deep morning decline to end the day higher. After broad losses on Tuesday and a choppy session on Wednesday, stocks mounted a powerful rally Thursday thanks to positive corporate earnings reports, overcoming a disappointing first-quarter Gross Domestic Product report. Stocks could not sustain Thursday’s momentum, as Friday witnessed a broad-based retreat to cement another week of losses.

Economy Contracts

Following the torrid 6.9% annualized GDP growth rate in the fourth quarter, economists had expected economic growth to moderate to about a one-percent gain in the first quarter. Instead, the economy shrank at an annualized rate of 1.4%, dented by a slowdown in inventory investment by businesses, a jump in the trade deficit, and a decline in defense spending.

Consumer spending held up, rising 2.7%, though the gain was amid higher prices. Some economists expect the economy to resume its expansion for the remainder of the year, which may be one reason investors shrugged off the negative surprise.4

Footnotes and Sources

  1. The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2022
  2. The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2022
  3. The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2022
  4. CNBC, April 28, 2022

Tax Tip: Electronic Filing Options for Military Families

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a number of online resources for military members and their families. Some of these resources include:

  • IRS Free File. This program offers online tax preparation, electronic filing and direct deposit of refunds, at no cost.
  • Members of military and their families who have income below $72,000 can choose from any of the Free File tax software companies that the IRS has compiled.
  • Free File Fillable Forms is available for those who have income above $72,000.
  • Using Free File can help taxpayers figuring things like their earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit and Recovery Rebate Credit.
  • Miltax is another free tax resource available for the military community, offered through the Department of Defense.

* This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov6

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, February 25, 2021

Weekly Market Insights: Earnings Season Begins

Stocks posted losses in a holiday-shortened trading week as the first-quarter earnings season kicked off and investors digested new inflation data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.78%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 2.13%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 2.63% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, lost 1.20%.1,2,3

Watching Bonds

Stocks began the week moving lower as bond yields climbed higher, with growth stocks suffering some of the steepest declines. Investors considered China’s ongoing lockdown warily, worried it might worsen supply-chain issues.

Historically high consumer and producer price inflation reports were shrugged off by the stock and bond markets in the main, with bond yields slipping despite the hot inflation numbers. Despite an encouraging start to the first-quarter earnings season, stocks pulled back on Friday as bond yields resumed their move higher ahead of a three-day holiday weekend.

An Eye on Inflation

On Tuesday, March’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) report offered little indication that inflation may be moderating, as prices increased 8.5% year-over-year, the fastest pace in 40 years. Core inflation, excluding food and energy prices, recorded a 6.5% jump, the steepest rise since August 1982. One encouraging note was that core inflation showed potential signs of ebbing, posting a monthly increase of 0.3% versus expectations of a 0.5% increase.4

The following day, March’s Producer Price Index, a potential insight into future inflation, rose 11.2% year-over-year. A March survey by the National Federation of Independent Business released earlier in the week, indicated that half of the respondents were likely to raise prices in the next three months.5

Footnotes and Sources

  1. The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2022
  2. The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2022
  3. The Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2022
  4. CNBC, April 12, 2022
  5. The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2022