2.5.20 Free tax filing options; Student loan company makes stupid mistake; Visa changing processing fees

Most taxpayers are eligible to free file. But only 2% who qualify use the IRS free file site. Most software vendors are in the IRS Free File program, but tout their paid software instead. Go to IRS.gov – Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free | Internal Revenue Service. Some of the software includes free state tax filings as well. If you don’t like the one you’ve selected, you can bail and try another. If you make over $69K a year, you’re not eligible for Free File. In that case, try Credit Karma Tax to file for free. They want that info to target you for offers. Business owners or those with complicated tax situations need a pro. Small business owners can consider hiring an enrolled agent or your CPA who does tax. Warning: there’s been a steady increase in the number of unqualified people doing tax returns. No certification is required. Anyone can claim to be a tax preparer. Many have turned out to be con artists and thieves, who lie to generate a big refund directed into their account. Make sure your preparer signs the return and look it over. If you see false information, do not sign your name to that return.

Dan of Cleveland got a notice from the post office to come pick up more mail than can be delivered. He arrives to a pile of 55,000 letters! His lender, the College Avenue Student Loan Company, sent him the same statement for his daughter’s tuition 55,000 times. Postage alone was around $11k and the information in the letter wasn’t even correct. The student loan industry is in disarray, rife with incompetence and abysmal record keeping. The industry is flat out broken. Keep your records. Run your own amortization schedule and track your loan. Make sure the balances and interest rates are correct and that payments are properly reflected on time. Watch them like a hawk.

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VISA – the most powerful of the 4 credit card networks (Visa, MC, AMEX, Discover) – will roll out fee structure changes this spring and fall. They'll begin charging higher merchant fees where credit cards are dominant, and lower fees in low use sectors in an effort to manipulate buying behavior. Merchants that accept Visa won't have a choice, unless they're large enough to negotiate their own processing rates, like Amazon and Walmart. Everyone else will be at the mercy of Visa. The cost for online merchants will go up. Smaller businesses may have to bump up prices to deal with this. Online purchases will potentially cost more than in-store. Tuition payment by credit card can cost 2.9% more. That's an industry with low market share for Visa, so they'll be dropping those rates and subsidizing them with higher fees charged elsewhere to try to get market share in student tuition payment for private schools, pre-schools and colleges. Visa/MC cartel fees are typically the second largest expense for merchants. Remember you can offer customers a deal for paying with cash and giving them part of what you save as a way to reduce expenses. Visa may be trial ballooning, waiting to see what the other card networks will do. Consumers may see different pricings for different payment methods.
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