What the experts say
IRS to stall some tax refunds
“Some people may wait a little longer for their tax refunds next spring,” said Darla Mercado in CNBC.com. Households that file early and claim the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit won’t receive their refunds until after Feb. 15 because of a new anti-fraud regulation that takes effect in 2017. The rule gives the IRS “more time to sniff out phony returns and prevent refunds from going to scammers.” But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep filing early. Thieves rush to submit fake returns before actual taxpayers file documents. The two popular tax credits are among the most attractive to scammers, because they often result in a sizable refund.
Help with at-home care
Dependent-care flexible spending accounts “aren’t just for children,” said Kimberly Lankford in Kiplinger.com. “You can also use the money tax-free to cover care for other dependents while you work,” such as an elderly parent. To qualify, the person must live with you and either be considered your dependent for tax purposes or receive more than 50 percent of his or her support from you during the year. They must also be mentally or physically incapable of self-care, “which the IRS defines as someone who cannot dress, clean, or feed themselves because of physical or mental impairments.” You and your spouse can contribute a total of up to $5,000 annually to a dependent-care FSA.
Employers and your credit history
Despite what you may have heard, a low credit score won’t cost you a job offer, said Michelle Singletary in The Washington Post. When employers request an applicant’s credit history, what they receive is actually a “dressed down” version of the record used by lenders. That report does not include your credit score. The employer report usually includes public-record information on bankruptcies, liens, and judgments, but excludes a person’s age and account numbers. Additionally, if an employment credit report contributes to any decision that negatively affects you, “federal law requires the company to give you a copy of the report along with a written description of your rights.”
Correction: In the Sept. 9 issue, The Week misstated how the tax deduction for home mortgages works. Married couples may deduct the interest paid on up to $1.1 million in mortgage debt, not the entire amount.
Charity of the week
Nearly a billion people globally live without access to clean water, and waterborne diseases claim the lives of 6,000 children every day. The Safe Water Network (safewaternetwork.org), founded in 2006 by the late actor Paul Newman, aims to create sustainable safe-water projects for those in need. The organization’s “Safe Water Stations”— water treatment facilities that are locally owned and supported—operate in more than 140 communities in India and Ghana, providing more than a quarter of a million people with daily access to safe water. Customers pay a nominal fee for water access, in order to keep the enterprise sustainable, and the organization offers training and tools so that locals can make repairs independently. Many villages see an 80 percent participation rate once treatment centers are established.
Each charity we feature has earned a four-star overall rating from Charity Navigator, which rates not-for-profit organizations on the strength of their finances, their governance practices, and the transparency of their operations. Four stars is the group’s highest rating.