By: TK Irons

It’s not too early to think about the tax return you’ll file next year. Here’s an opportunity you might not know about but, before that, a few general things on taxes:

File Your Return Strategically
The most eager filers finish their return early – 73% of Americans receive a refund. If that’s you – why not get that money sooner and put it to good use? Are you trying to pay off debt, cash-flow tuition, invest more, save a down payment? Get that refund as soon as possible and apply it toward reaching your current goal.

Get EXCITED When You Hear – Tax Credit
Deductions are great. They help us out, buuuuuut, pay extra close attention when you hear the words ‘tax CREDIT.’ It may sound the same but it isn’t. On the one hand, deductions reduce the amount of income we pay taxes on…nice, right? A tax credit, on the other hand, reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar. If you qualify for a $1,000 tax credit you literally save $1,000*. AhhMAAAZING.

Work Smarter Not Harder
“The retirement crisis is a Tsunami that is rapidly approaching” according to SEC Commissioner Kara M. Stein. Often the tax code reflects what the government wants from the populace. Perhaps our government values people owning property and providing housing (i.e. tax deductions are available for mortgage interest payments and for passive income earned by real estate investors). It seems the government also likes to see you save more toward your retirement accounts. We can’t do everything that is incentivized, but when we have an opportunity to take up the challenge there are some real rewards available.

HERE IT IS (drum roll)
Without further ado, I present the Saver’s Credit! It could be worth $1,000 (or $2,000 if married filing jointly!) And yes, you read – CREDIT!

Basic Qualifications:
•18 years old+
•Not a full-time student
•Not claimed as a dependent
•Less than or equal to $64k AGI (married filing jointly)
•Less than or equal to $48k AGI (head of household)
•Less than or equal to $32k AGI (single or other)

Remember: Your AGI doesn’t include your pretax retirement account contributions. So, you may earn more total income but still qualify because your taxable income is offset by those contributions. Here’s a handy tool from the IRS website to see if you qualify. Take ten minutes to do some simple tax planning on your own. Can you qualify this year? How about making a plan to earn this sweet bonus next year?

*What if you went into work tomorrow, and your boss announced a new $1,000-$2,000 bonus available for the most responsible employees. Wouldn’t you work diligently be that employee? Well, this is essentially the same offer the IRS is giving many of us to make good decisions about our retirement savings. By the way, aren’t all of us in the 3rd Decade™ trying to do that anyway?!

Author Bio: TK is a past 3rd Decade graduate who lives and breathes the philosophy taught in class. He avidly researches personal finance and investing topics, and occasionally contributes thoughts here on the blog. He graduated cum laude from the University of Arizona with his BSBA. As a longtime saver and investor, his net worth today is higher than the total number of dollars earned in his lifetime. He keeps his annual living expenses super low, owns his house free and clear, and has zero personal debt. TK currently resides in Tucson, AZ with his wife, and works full-time as a firefighter. Feel free to send him a message at