How to bug your employer for your W-2 and other timely tax, budget tips

How to bug your employer for your W 2 and other timely tax, budget tipsW-2 forms are on their way. And if you don't get yours soon, here's what you do.(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)It’s late January, which means it’s time to start paying attention to income-tax details — and a few other personal finance topics.• Tax forms: When to start calling. The income-tax filing season is up and running, with the Internal Revenue Service now accepting returns. If you’re concerned about tax-refund theft, or just want your refund faster, it pays to file as soon as you can. But you can’t do so if your W-2 and 1099 forms haven’t arrived yet.That might take a couple of more weeks. The IRS suggests contacting your employer, or other form providers such as brokerages and banks, by Feb. 1 if you’re still waiting. If forms still haven’t arrived or are incorrect as of Feb. 14, try calling the IRS at 800-829-1040 for assistance. ”After 14, the IRS will contact the employer/payer for you and request the missing or corrected form,” the agency says on its website.The IRS also will send you Form 4852, which you may use to complete your return if you don’t receive missing or corrected forms in time to meet the normal mid-April deadline (April 18 this year). You also have the option of filing an extension, which provides roughly another six months to complete your return.When contacting the IRS, you should have the address, phone number and EIN, or identification number, for your employer. It also helps if you can estimate your wages, earnings and taxes withheld, if any.USA TODAYCredit freezes put the chill on tax refund thieves• The time to budget. Plenty of Americans struggle financially, yet only about 2 in 5 prepare and follow a budget, according to surveys by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. If you don’t have a good idea of where your money goes or lack an emergency cash reserve, it might be smart to track your income against expenses.Now’s the time to do it. Your yearly tax information should be at hand, and perhaps you also have summaries of your spending for the past year from bank or credit card statements. Recurring expenditures for rent, the mortgage or car payments are easy to track, but you also need to remember about items like insurance or property taxes that you might pay just once or twice a year.The budget process can provide reminders to shop around for lower prices on certain big-ticket expenditures, said financial planner Jerry Guttman. For example, he suggests getting quotes on auto and homeowners insurance at least once a year.Here are some other budget tips:  Don’t budget every dollar but leave an excess for unanticipated costs, with the rest carried over into savings. Be vigilant when using cash. It’s easy to lose track of where the money goes.Also, post your budget in a prominent place or monitor results with the help of a friend or family member — the feedback can keep you on course. “Seeing it often reminds (people) of good habits,” Guttman said.• Work on that financial checklist. The start of the year offers a good opportunity to catch up on various other financial tips. These include drafting a will or trust, and checking the beneficiary designations on IRAs and life insurance. Few people max out on 401(k)s, but it’s smart, at the least, to boost your contributions from time to time — and sign up for a plan if you haven’t done that yet.Also, look into getting your credit reports (free through annualcreditreport.com), set up bank and credit card fraud and low-balance alerts, shred unneeded documents containing personal information and shop for a new credit card if your interest rate is no longer competitive.There’s no particular reason to take these steps in January, but doing so can help build personal momentum as the year progresses.Reach Wiles at [email protected] or 602-444-8616.

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