Tax Refunds

You may think that income taxes are something people think about between January 1 and April 15 of every year.  Or maybe you think if people are really good planners, they think about taxes during December before “tax season” starts.  But this is one of the best times of years to think about your income taxes. 


First, realize that it’s generally not good to get a big refund.  The IRS doesn’t pay interest on money it’s been holding on to for you, so when you get a big refund check, that money wasn’t earning anything for you while it was waiting for you to claim it.  Most of us would rather have a better return on our investment than that. 


Second, there are times when having a big tax bill can be ok.  If you pay into the IRS what you owed last year (or slightly more if you’re in the higher income brackets) you can generally pay what you owe by April 15 and not be out any interest or penalties.  So even if you’re keeping the money in a savings account, you’ll probably come out ahead.


A real key is realizing that what you owe doesn’t have to be a surprise!  A good tax professional can look at what your taxes looked like last year, what you’ve got on your financial plate this year, and then give you some idea of what your tax return might like for the year.  They can even generate a W-4 to adjust your paycheck withholdings up or down, or give you some estimated tax calculations and forms to send in.  What they charge you could save you in penalties or give you some extra cash flow now to invest. 


This is the perfect time of year to plan for your taxes.  You’ve still got time to do something about it and avoid a surprise next year.  And, your tax preparers would love to see you.  They get lonely this time of year. 


The Market and The Election

People often ask how the stock market will react to who wins the presidential election.  I couple of elections ago I heard an economist give a very rational explanation of what happens around major elections.  It was that the market doesn’t like uncertainty.  It’s not a matter so much of who wins—although history does seem to show some economic trends that seem to follow the style of leadership the country has—it’s just knowing that a decision has been made.  It’s never wise to do market timing or other speculative moves based on what the political system will do to our economy.  For instance, last fall I heard a very credit economist say that the Democrats were obviously going to win the next presidential election and Hillary Clinton was obviously going to be the Democratic nominee, therefore, Hillary Clinton would be our next president.  He then gave an economic forecast with that basis.  For obvious reasons, I’ve thrown away my notes on that presentation. 


Having a good foundation of diversified investments, enough money in accessible savings for emergencies, and a regular program of socking money away is a good plan to get through the coming election season.  No matter who wins.