A New Parent’s Guide to Sleep Deprivation [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you, um, just can’t quite, uh, find the right word or figure out – seemingly! – simple problems, and you recently brought home an adorable, EXHAUSTING baby from the hospital, this is the infographic for you. While it won’t help that little one sleep through the night, it might help you find a few new ways to cope with the (hopefully temporary) loss of sleep. Leer en español.

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New Parent's Guide to Sleep Deprivation

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Same-Sex Marriage and Your State Tax Return

Early in October, the Supreme Court denied review of same-sex marriage appeals from three different federal appeals courts: the Tenth Circuit, the Fourth Circuit and the Seventh Circuit.

What does that mean? Since the Supreme Court has declined to decide the matters, the decisions of each of the lower courts will stand. That means the states where same-sex marriages were stopped pending an appeal to the Supreme Court should now allow same-sex marriages.

It also means that states within those federal circuit court jurisdictions that do not allow same-sex marriages will have to follow the rules set forth in the federal circuit court ruling. So same-sex marriage should now be recognized in more states. However, in some states (including Kansas and South Carolina), it may require some additional legal and governmental processes before same-sex marriages are recognized. Another case from the Ninth Circuit requires same-sex marriages to be recognized in Idaho; additional process may be necessary before same-sex marriage is recognized in Montana.

The bottom line is that it is still a bit confusing for same-sex couples when it comes to filing a state tax return. That’s why we have updated our map after this recent news to reflect the states where same-sex couples should file as married filing jointly or married filing separately.

Still have questions? Come talk with one of our tax professionals who can help consult on your specific situation.

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Top 10 Tax Tips if You Have a New Baby

Ed note: If you recently had a baby, congratulations! Now I need you to focus for just a minute through that sleep-deprived haze. There are some VERY IMPORTANT tax issues that come along with your new bundle. The good news: most of them mean more credits and deductions for you! Leer en español.

1. Upgrading to better tax rates

If you would have filed as Single this year, support your household, and had a baby, your filing status could change to Head of Household (HH). Not only does the HH filing status give you a larger bump in standard deduction, but HH has more favorable tax brackets as well. That means for the same dollar amount of income, you could be paying less taxes as HH instead of Single thanks to your new bundle of joy. However, if you are married, having a child will not generally affect your filing status.  For more information on the requirements for your filing status, please see IRS Publication 501.

2. Baby showers

Parents are typically showered with gifts and money from friends and relatives  to celebrate the birth of the child.. The good news is that these gifts are not taxable. However, if your rich relative gifts more than $14,000 (in money or property) to any one person during the year, he or she may be subject to gift taxes and need to file a gift tax return.

BT Medical - English3. Medical expenses

Medical expenses can be deductible if they exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. Most parents are aware that the cost of the hospital stay to birth your baby and related care will count as medical expenses. But mothers are surprised to find out that the cost of breast pumps and lactation supplies are medical expenses that may help you reach up and over that 10% hump. However, you’ll need to itemize these expenses in order to qualify for this deduction.

4. Getting your baby on the grid

You are required to include the social security number (SSN) of any dependent you claim as an exemption on your tax return. If your baby does not have yet a SSN, you should apply for an SSN as soon as possible by filing Form SS5, Application for a Social Security Card, with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

It usually takes about two weeks to get a SSN once the SSA has all the information it needs. If you do not have the required SSN by the filing due date, you can file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for additional time (up to six months) to file your return.

5. It doesn’t feel like there is anything more “dependent” than a newborn

That infant is not only dependent on your for food, clothes and shelter, they are also a dependent on your tax return! For most taxpayers, claiming your little neonate may shelter $3,950 of your income from tax in 2014 through an additional dependency exemption. If you are in the 33% tax bracket, this deduction can save you up to $1,303. The IRS provides a tool for you to use to help you determine if someone is your dependent on your tax return.

BT Education - English6. Education planning

With higher education costs skyrocketing, it’s never too early to start saving. Qualified tuition programs (QTPs, also called “529 plans”) are programs offered by many states that allow you to either prepay or contribute to an account for paying a student’s qualified education expenses at a postsecondary institution. If you prepay tuition, the student (known as the designated beneficiary) will be entitled to a waiver or a payment of qualified education expenses, which are tax-free (even the earnings!) to the extent of qualified education expenses incurred during the year. Unfortunately, you cannot deduct the payments or contributions to a QTP at the federal level, but you might be able to deduct these at the state level depending upon where you live.

7. Child Tax Credit

This credit may be as much as $1,000 per qualifying child depending upon your income and filing status. Since children are known to be expensive, paying less in taxes means more diapers or better toys for your baby. For requirements to claim this credit, be sure to visit IRS Publication 972.

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8. Earned Income Tax Credit

This credit could land a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children up to a maximum amount of $6,143 as a refundable credit for 2014. If you claim the credit without children, your credit is much, much lower. As with any tax benefits, you and any qualifying children must meet the specific requirements to be eligible. If you are, the credit amount is based on your total income, the types of income you received, and your filing status.

Use the EITC Assistant to find out if you are eligible, if your child is a qualifying child, and estimate the amount of the credit you may get. Visit IRS Publication 596 for more information.

9. Household help

If you employ a nanny or caregiver to help care for your newborn, you may need to comply with additional filing requirements. There are federal and state employee withholding taxes you must understand if above certain amount in wages ($1,900 for 2014) is paid to a household employee. See IRS Publication 926 for more information.

BT Child Care - English10. Credit for Child and Dependent Care expenses

If you paid someone to care for your child while you worked, – like a daycare center – you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit on your federal income tax return. This credit is based on your amount of earned income and can be up to 35% of your qualifying child care expenses, up to a max amount of $3,000 per child up to $6,000. Of course, there are specific requirements that are laid out in IRS Publication 503. This credit may also be reduced if you receive tax-free dependent care benefits from an employer.

Why Should You Use a 401(k)?

Ed note: You can save for retirement. Or buy that new TV right now. Much of financial planning is about keeping your sights on the long game instead of immediate gratification. It’s not easy, but Ben Edwards is here with some great reasons that kind of thinking will pay off. Leer en español. You may […]

What is a 401(k)?

At its core, a 401(k) an investment tool for retirement. It is a type of plan called a “defined contribution plan.” Leer en español. You put money into an account that is then invested in stocks, bonds, money market accounts and more. You work with a company – like Fidelity Investments or Vanguard – to […]

Tax Questions? H&R Block Partners with HAF to Get You Answers

If you think that taxes are something that you only need to worry about once a year, think again. Believe it or not, taxes affect your life year-round. If you get married, buy a house, have a baby, move to another state, change jobs—and this is just the start—it’s important to think about taxes. Many […]

5 Essentials for Making Your Child’s Halloween Costume

Ed note: I couldn’t help but be inspired by Holly’s awesome ideas for easy, no-sew, DIY Halloween costumes. I had to try them for myself! After reading, I bet you’ll feel the same way too. Store-bought Halloween costumes can be quite expensive but making your own at home can be a cost effective and fun […]

Retirement Savings for the Self-Employed, Explained

Ed note: Saving for retirement can be daunting. Saving for retirement without a company-sponsored plan can seem impossible. There are several options out there, but you’ll have to decide what works best for you.  Leer en español. When you are self-employed, your retirement options may seem confusing. Without a company 401(k) or pension plan to […]

Battle of the Fall Beverages: Coffee or Tea? [INFOGRAPHIC]

The air is crisp. The leaves are changing. It’s time to embrace that warm drink (unless, of course, you live in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma or Florida where – apparently – cold drinks still reign supreme). Do you go for tea or coffee? Cider or hot cocoa? We look at these favorites and […]

The Important Role of Godparents in the Latino Community

Ed note: Selecting godparents may be quite easy, or may be an incredibly thoughtful process. Your approach may say a lot about the culture you were raised in. Tracy Lopez of Latinaish is here to spell out some of the ways godparents are a special and important part of Latin American culture. Leer en español. […]