If you're late filing taxes
Did you miss the tax deadline? asks Ann Carrns in The New York Times. If you did, "it's time for damage control." The Internal Revenue Service says you won't be charged a penalty for filing late if you are owed a refund, but if you owe taxes, get moving. The IRS generally won't waive interest on owed taxes, "but it will consider abating penalties if you can show a 'reasonable cause' for filing late." If you file late, the IRS will typically send you a notice of penalty, giving you (or your tax preparer) a chance to ask for an abatement. Significant illness, a serious accident, and emergencies beyond your control generally qualify. It also helps if you've always filed on time and paid your taxes. But beware — if you often file late and are slow to pony up, "that will work against your claim."
How to pay for child care
If you're a working parent, you know the pain of child-care costs, says Regina Lewis in USA Today. Child care is often "the second highest monthly expense for families, behind rent or a mortgage." If you're hiring a nanny, remember that she must pay income taxes and that, "as an employer, you're also obligated" to pay Social Security and unemployment taxes on her behalf. Use an online "nanny calculator" to help you crunch the numbers. Luckily, there are some ways to mitigate child-care expenses and save serious cash. If your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account, you can set aside up to $5,000 of pretax dollars for child care, saving you up to $2,300, depending on your tax bracket. Alternatively, the Child or Dependent Care Tax Credit lets you exclude up to $3,000 in child-care expenses, saving you up to $1,050.
Evening out energy bills
You can avoid the spike in utility bills that summer air-conditioning often causes, says Lindsay Gellman in The Wall Street Journal. "Many energy providers offer so-called budget-bill or level-payment plans that allow you to pay a set monthly amount for energy." They charge you a flat monthly rate based on the average you paid the previous year. At the end of the year, you'll get a bill or a credit for any difference. These plans may not save you money over the long term, but they serve as "a useful budgeting tool" for preventing "wide fluctuations in your bill during the summer and winter months."