Category First Time Home Buyers

5 Ways to Prevent Working Mom Burnout

We already know the devastating impact COVID has had on women in the workforce — four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force last September, and 9.8 million working mothers were suffering from burnout. 

As a working mom, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to raise my children while also building my own career. I genuinely believe that I have been blessed with the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Every mom knows the joy that comes from raising children — and how often that joy can be found nestled between the familiar and crushing walls of fatigue.

In honor of Mother’s Day and all the moms out there, I wanted to share five tactics that helped me navigate and balance employment and motherhood while avoiding burnout. 

1. Know your limits

It’s impossible to be everywhere at once. Try to split school events with your spouse or other members of your support system. When my girls were in grade school, my husband had more flexibility at work than I did. So, it was dad selling hot dogs with the other moms on “Hot Dog Day.”. My daughters loved seeing him there as it was uncommon for a dad to be there, and he had a great time. It’s a memory my girls still laugh about to this day.

 Don’t stress about making fancy desserts for bake sales, either. While you may feel obligated to say yes to everything, remember not to stretch yourself too thin. 

2. Outsource, outsource, outsource

Think about operating your home like a small business. Try to outsource everything you don’t like or don’t have time to do. Your time is valuable, so consider where it’s best spent. I am a very neat person and can clean my house better than someone else, but it’s so time consuming! Having someone clean my house once a week when the girls lived at home was the best money ever spent. This opened more time for me to spend on both the kids and my career. 

3. Take time for yourself

It may seem out of the question, but finding time for yourself is critical for your mental health. I know you’re probably so focused on your children, your career and your home, that finding a few minutes for yourself can seem impossible. But that time will be well spent — even if you have to wake up early to have some “you” time.

I love to wake up early to have some time to myself before the chaos of the day gets started. My “me” time is a daily workout. This is a part of my day I will never miss. It is a positive outlet that releases endorphins and a great way to start your day. Find your positive outlet. Every mom deserves at least one thing they do just for themselves. 

4. Negotiate for what matters most

This doesn’t only apply to your salary. Years ago, I lived on Long Island but worked in Manhattan. As my kids grew older, I needed to be closer to home. I asked my boss at the time if he would open a Long Island office for me, and his initial response was “no.” So, I took it upon myself to do research and build a case for an office space nearby. I found an office that was cheaper than the desk in their NYC office and showed him how I would be able to be more productive with a shorter commute. I made such a compelling argument that he had no choice but to say “yes.” This win was amazing and life changing for me and my family.

Understand what is most important to you and figure out a way to make it happen. You have to advocate for yourself, because no one else will.

5. Build a solid support system

Having child care was necessary for me to continue with my career. But beyond our sitter, I also put trust in my daughters’ teachers and took advice from other parents, especially those who had older children.

Starting with the fifth grade, teachers told us not to help our girls with homework so they could learn how to do it on their own. While it was hard at first, it was a blessing in disguise, because it taught my children how to be independent and figure things out on their own. I had friends whose kids were in high school and the parents were still trying to help them with their homework. So happy that wasn’t me! Other mothers also gave me great advice and helped me feel like I was not in it alone. It truly takes a village to raise a family, and it is always OK to ask for help.

As moms, we know just how difficult it can be to balance our work lives with motherhood. If we are stretching ourselves out too thin, then we won’t be our best selves professionally or for our families. As the world opens back up and we can return to some semblance of our normal lives, I hope these tips will help you find your balance and be the best working mom you can be. 

Registered Investment Adviser, ALINE Wealth

Gina Grippo-Martinez is a wealth adviser at ALINE Wealth. Her Wall Street days behind her, Gina currently holds her Series 7, 63 and 66 licenses, and helps her clients plan for their futures. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Point Lookout, Long Island. For more information, please visit www.ALINEWealth.com.

Source: kiplinger.com

IRS Extends Tax Deadlines for Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee Storm Victims

Victims of severe storms earlier this year in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee will have more time to file their 2020 federal income tax return. For Kentucky storm victims, the due date is now June 30, 2021; for Alabama and Tennessee victims, it’s August 2, 2021. The announcements from the IRS about the extra time follow disaster area declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for those three states. Taxpayers in other states impacted by the storms that receive similar FEMA disaster declarations will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief.

In Kentucky, people affected by the February 27 severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides who reside or have a business in Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Calloway, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Cumberland, Edmonson, Elliott, Estill, Floyd, Franklin, Graves, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lincoln, Magoffin, Marion, Martin, Mason, Menifee, Morgan, Ohio, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Union, Whitley, and Wolfe Counties qualify for tax relief.

In Alabama, the tax relief is available for people impacted by the March 25 severe storms, straight-line winds, and tornadoes who reside or have a business in Bibb, Calhoun, Clay, Hale, Jefferson, Perry, Randolph, and Shelby Counties.

In Tennessee, the additional time is allowed for victims of severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes, and flooding on March 25 in Campbell, Cannon, Cheatham, Claiborne, Clay, Davidson, Decatur, Fentress, Grainger, Hardeman, Henderson, Hickman, Jackson, Madison, Maury, McNairy, Moore, Overton, Scott, Smith, Wayne, Williamson, and Wilson Counties.

Various federal tax filing and payment due dates for Kentucky individuals and businesses between February 27 and June 29 will be shifted to June 30. Likewise, for Alabama and Tennessee individuals and businesses, federal deadlines between March 25 and August 1 will be moved to August 2. In addition to the May 17 personal income tax filing deadline, this includes:

  • 2020 IRA contributions originally due on May 17;
  • Quarterly estimated income tax payments normally due on April 15 and June 15;
  • Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns ordinarily due on April 30; and
  • 2020 returns for tax-exempt organizations typically due on May 17.

In Kentucky, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due from February 27 to March 14 will also be waived if the deposits were made by March 15. In Alabama and Tennessee, the same applies for deposits due from March 25 to April 8 they’re made by April 9.

You don’t have to contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if you receive a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, you should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

In addition, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives elsewhere, but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are in Alabama, Kentucky or Tennessee. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live in another state need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization and anyone visiting the covered disaster area who was killed or injured because of the storm.

People and businesses in a federally declared disaster area who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2021 return normally filed next year), or the return for the prior year. This means that taxpayers can, if they choose, claim these losses on the 2020 return they are filling out this tax season. Be sure to write the FEMA declaration number (4595-DR for Alabama, 4595-DR for Kentucky, 4601-DR for Tennessee) on any return claiming a loss. It’s also a good idea for affected taxpayers claiming the disaster loss on a 2020 return to put the Disaster Designation (e.g., “Alabama – Severe Storms, Straight-line Winds, and Tornadoes” or “Kentucky – Severe Storms, Flooding, Landslides, and Mudslides” or “Tennessee Severe Storms, Straight-line Winds, Tornadoes, and Flooding”) in bold letters at the top of the form. See IRS Publication 547 for details.

[NOTE: Similar tax relief is available for victims of winter storms in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.]

Source: kiplinger.com

The IRS Has $1.3 Billion in Tax Refund Money That Must Be Claimed by Monday

The IRS is looking for 1.3 million people who didn’t file a 2017 tax return and who might be owed a refund of taxes withheld or otherwise prepaid. In fact, there’s more than $1.3 billion of potential refunds waiting to be claimed. The median potential refund is estimated to be $865. Is any of that money yours?

Claim Your Refund By May 17

If you think some of that cash could be yours, you need to act fast. In cases where a federal tax return was not filed, the taxpayer generally has a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. That means you must file your 2017 tax return with the IRS no later than this year’s extended tax due date of May 17, 2021, to collect the money.

Missing W-2 and Other 2017 Tax Forms?

If you’re missing W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 forms from 2017, try getting copies from your employer, bank or other payer. If that doesn’t work, you can go online and order a free wage and income transcript from the IRS or request one by filing Form 4506-T. The transcript will show data from information returns received by the IRS. This information can be used to file your 2017 tax return.

What If You Have a Tax Debt or Didn’t File Other Returns?

The IRS could hold your 2017 refund check if you didn’t file a 2018 or 2019 return, either. In addition, the IRS may also apply your 2017 refund to any federal or state taxes you owe for other years—or to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.

Eligibility for 2017 Earned Income Tax Credit

By filing a 2017 tax return, many low- and moderate-income workers may also be eligible for the earned income tax credit for that year. The credit was worth as much as $6,318 for 2017. The credit helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2017 were:

  • $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing jointly) for people with three or more qualifying children;
  • $45,007 ($50,597 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children;
  • $39,617 ($45,207 if married filing jointly) for people with one qualifying child; and
  • $15,010 ($20,600 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.

Source: kiplinger.com

Refunds for $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break to Begin This Week

If you received unemployment benefits last year and filed your 2020 tax return relatively early, you may find a check in your mailbox soon (or a deposit in your bank account). Starting in mid-May, and extending through the summer, the IRS will automatically issue tax refunds to those Americans who filed their 2020 return and reported unemployment compensation before tax law changes were made by the American Rescue Plan.

Signed on March 11, the American Rescue Plan exempts from federal tax up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 ($20,400 for married couples filing jointly) for households reporting an adjusted gross income (AGI) less than $150,000. The IRS has identified over 10 million people who filed their tax returns before the plan became law and is reviewing those returns to determine the correct amount of tax on their unemployment compensation. For those affected, this could result in a refund, a reduced tax bill, or no change at all. (You can use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant tool to see if payments you received for being unemployed are taxable.)

The IRS will recalculate impacted tax returns in two phases. First, it will start with returns for single taxpayers who had the simplest tax returns, such as those filed by people who didn’t claim children as dependents or any refundable tax credits. It will then adjust returns for married couples filing jointly who are eligible for an exemption up to $20,400 and others with more complex returns.

The new tax exemption only applies to unemployment benefits received in 2020. So, if you receive unemployment compensation in 2021 or beyond, expect to pay federal tax on the amount you get.

As for state taxes, just because the federal government is waiving taxes on the first $10,200 of your 2020 unemployment benefits, that doesn’t mean your state will too. To see if your state has adopted the federal exemption for 2020 state tax returns, see Taxes on Unemployment Benefits: A State-by-State Guide.

Refunds for Unemployment Compensation

If you’re entitled to a refund, the IRS will directly deposit it into your bank account if you provided the necessary bank account information on your 2020 tax return. If valid bank account information is not available, the IRS will mail a paper check to your address of record. The IRS says it will continue to send refunds until all identified tax returns have been reviewed and adjusted.

The IRS will send you a notice explaining any corrections. Expect the notice within 30 days of when the correction is made. Keep any notices you receive for your records, and make sure you review your return after receiving an IRS notice.

The refunds are also subject to normal offset rules. So, the amount you get could be reduced (potentially to zero) if you owe federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debt, child support, spousal support, or certain federal non-tax debt (i.e., student loans). The IRS will send a separate notice to you if your refund is offset to pay any unpaid debts.

Should I File an Amended Return?

Although the IRS says there’s no need to file an amended return, some early filers may still need to, especially if their recalculated AGI makes them eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on their original tax return.

The IRS, for example, can adjust returns for those taxpayers who claimed the earned income tax credit and, because the exemption changed their income level, may now be eligible for an increase in the tax credit amount which may result in a larger refund. That said, taxpayers will need to file an amended return if they didn’t originally claim the tax credit, or other credits, but now are eligible because the exclusion changed their income, the IRS said. These taxpayers may want to review their state tax returns as well.

Withholding from Unemployment Compensation

Again, the $10,200 exemption only applies to unemployment compensation received in 2020. So, to avoid a big tax bill when you file your 2021 return next year, consider having taxes withheld from any unemployment payments you receive this year.

Contact your state unemployment office to have federal income taxes withheld from your unemployment benefits. You may be able to use Form W-4V to voluntarily have federal income taxes withheld from your payments. However, check with your state to see if it has its own form. If so, use the state form instead.

Excess Premium Tax Credit Payments

The American Rescue Plan also suspends the requirement to repay excess advance payments of the premium tax credit. If you repaid any excess credit when you filed your 2020 return, the IRS is also refunding this amount automatically. If the IRS corrects your return to reflect the unemployment compensation exclusion, any excess premium tax credit amount you paid will be included in the adjustment. The IRS is also adjusting returns for people who repaid excess premium tax credits but didn’t report unemployment compensation on their 2020 tax return.

Source: kiplinger.com

IRS Gives Truckers a Tax Break in Response to the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

In response to the supply chain disruptions created by the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, the IRS is temporarily suspending the penalty for selling or using dyed diesel fuel for highway use in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Normally, dyed diesel fuel is not subject to the 24.4¢ per gallon tax that is normally applied to diesel fuel for highway use because it’s only sold for tax-exempt uses, such as for farming, home heating, and local government purposes. (The fuel is dyed – often red – to distinguish it from taxable fuel.)

The penalty is typically imposed if:

  • Any dyed fuel is sold or held for sale for a use the person knows or has reason to know isn’t a nontaxable use of the fuel;
  • Any dyed fuel is held for use or used for a use other than a nontaxable use and the person knew, or had reason to know, that the fuel was dyed;
  • The strength or composition of any dye in dyed fuel is willfully altered, or there is an attempt to alter it; or
  • Altered fuel is knowingly sold or held for sale for any use that isn’t a nontaxable use of the fuel.

The penalty is $1,000 or $10 per gallon of the dyed diesel fuel involved, whichever is higher. For multiple violations, the $1,000 portion of the penalty increases depending on the number of violations.

The penalty relief is retroactive to May 7, 2021, and will remain in effect through May 21, 2021. It’s available to any person that sells or uses dyed diesel fuel for highway use. In the case of the operator of a vehicle in which the dyed diesel fuel is used, the penalty relief is available only if the operator or the person selling the fuel pays the 24.4 cents per gallon tax that is normally applied to diesel fuel for highway use. The IRS also won’t impose penalties for the failure to make semimonthly deposits of this tax.

Source: kiplinger.com

Top Off Your HSA and Lower Your Tax Bill (While There’s Still Time)

Here’s some good news for people who had a health savings account (HSA) last year – you can still contribute to the account if you haven’t already maxed out your 2020 contributions. HSAs offer a tax-efficient way to pay for medical expenses, since employer contributions aren’t including in your taxable income, earnings are tax-free, and distributions aren’t taxed if you use them to pay qualified medical expenses. Plus, you might also qualify for a deduction (or larger deduction) on your 2020 tax return. Those are all good reasons to contribute as much as you can to your HSA for 2020.

But here’s the catch — you only have a couple days left to make this move. You have until the tax filing deadline to make HSA contributions for the previous calendar year. In most years, that deadline falls on April 15. However, this year (like last year), the tax filing due date was pushed back as part of the IRS’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. So now you have until May 17 to contribute to an HSA for 2020. That’s this coming Monday…so you need to act quickly!

(For Monday’s other tax due dates, see 9 Tax Deadlines for May 17.)

HSA Contribution Limits for 2020

For 2020, you can contribute up to $3,550 to an HSA if you have self-only coverage. If you have family coverage, the max is $7,100. Anyone who was age 55 or older at the end of 2020 can put in an additional $1,000 in “catch up” contributions for the year. (For all the 2017 to 2022 contribution limits, see HSA Contribution Limits and Other Requirements.)

The contribution limits can be reduced, though. If your employer makes contributions to your HSA that are excludable from your income – including amounts contributed through a cafeteria plan – those contributions count against your overall limit. In that case, the amount you can contribute to your HSA is lower.

Excess HSA Contributions

If you haven’t reached your limit, think about making a quick HSA contribution now if you have some extra income available (say, from a stimulus check). But don’t go over your limit! There’s a 6% penalty on excess contributions. And this penalty applies to each year the excess contribution remains in your account.

If you accidently put too much money in your HSA account for 2020, you can withdraw the excess amount and avoid the penalty if you:

  • Withdraw the excess by May 17, or by October 15 if you request a tax filing extension; and
  • Withdraw any income earned on the withdrawn contributions and include the earnings in “Other income” on your 2020 tax return.

If you don’t withdraw your excess contributions, you may be able to claim a tax break for them down the road. Excess contributions from previous years that are still in your HSA account can be deducted, but the deduction is limited to the lesser of (1) your maximum HSA contribution limit for the year minus any amounts actually contributed for the year, or (2) the total excess contributions in your HSA at the beginning of the year.

Deduction for 2020 HSA Contributions

As mentioned above, you may be able to deduct your 2020 HSA contributions on your 2020 tax return (up to the maximum contribution limit). And you don’t have to itemize to claim this tax break. Instead, your contributions are reported as an adjustment to income on Line 12 of Schedule 1 (Form 1040). You need to submit Form 8889 with your tax return, too. So, it might be wise to put more money into your HSA for 2020 before May 17 if you haven’t already reached the contribution limit. That’s especially true if you plan to contribution to the account soon anyway. That way, you’ll get that extra deduction for 2020 and save more cap space for 2021 contributions.

There are some limitations, though. For instance, you can’t deduct HSA contributions made by your employer, including pre-tax funds contributed through payroll deductions. You also can’t claim the deduction if someone else can claim you as a dependent on their tax return. Distributions from an IRA that are contributed to your HSA in a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer are not deductible, either. Check the instructions for Form 8889 for all the rules.

If you already filed your 2020 tax return, you can file an amended tax return after May 17 to claim a new or increased HSA deduction if you add more to your account in the next couple of days. You generally have three years from the date you filed your original return or two years from the date you paid any tax due to file an amended return (go with whichever date is later). We recommend e-filing your amended return, since it will be processed much faster. Once you file an amended return, you can track its status online using the IRS’s “Where’s My Amended Return?” tool or by calling 866-464-2050.

Source: kiplinger.com

There’s Still Time to Fund Your IRA and Cut Your Taxes

As we approach the end of tax filing season, make sure you haven’t overlooked one of the best ways to cut your tax bill and secure your future — funding a traditional IRA. (There is no upfront tax break for funding a Roth IRA.)

You can make an IRA contribution for the 2020 tax year up until the tax return filing deadline, which is May 17 this year. That doesn’t leave much time, but if you have some extra income – say, from a stimulus check – go ahead and deposit it into an IRA account now before time expires. (Just make sure the IRA administrator knows it’s for the 2020 tax year.)

And what about those tax savings? Well, depending on your income, you may be able to deduct your IRA contribution on your 2020 return. To contribute to a traditional IRA, you or your spouse must have earned income from a job. But, otherwise, you may be able to deduct contributions to an IRA even if you or your spouse are covered by another retirement plan at work. Plus, starting last year, seniors age 70½ and older with earned income can contribute to a traditional IRA, too.

Here’s some more good news: The IRA deduction is an “above the line” adjustment to income, meaning you don’t have to itemize your deductions to claim it. It will reduce your adjusted gross income (AGI) dollar-for-dollar, lowering your tax bill. And your lower AGI could make you eligible for other tax breaks, which are tied to income limits.

Who Qualifies

If you’re single and don’t participate in a retirement plan at work, you can make a tax-deductible IRA contribution for 2020 of up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older) regardless of your income. If you’re married and your spouse is covered by a workplace-based retirement plan but you’re not, you can deduct your full IRA contribution as long as your joint AGI doesn’t top $196,000 for 2020. You can take a partial tax deduction if your combined income is between $196,000 and $206,000.

But even if you do participate in a retirement plan at work, you can still deduct up to the maximum $6,000 IRA contribution ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older) if you’re single and your income is $65,000 or less ($104,000 if married filing jointly). And you can deduct some of your IRA contribution if you’re single and your income is between $65,000 and $75,000, or if you’re married and your income is between $104,000 and $124,000.

Spouses with little or no earned income for 2020 can also make an IRA contribution of up to $6,000 ($7,000 if 50 or older) as long as their spouse has sufficient earned income to cover both contributions. The contribution is tax-deductible as long as your household income doesn’t exceed the limits for married couples filing jointly.

Double Tax Break

Some low- and moderate-income taxpayers get an extra break for contributing to an IRA or other retirement account.

In addition to the usual IRA deduction, you may qualify for a Retirement Savers tax credit of up to $1,000 for contributions to an IRA or other retirement tax plan. (A tax credit, which reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, is more valuable than a deduction, which merely reduces the amount of income that is taxed.)

The actual amount of the credit depends on your income. It ranges from 10% to 50% of the first $2,000 contributed to an IRA or other retirement account. To be eligible, your 2020 income can’t exceed $32,500 if you’re single, $48,750 if you’re the head of a household with dependents, or $65,000 if you’re married filing jointly. The lower your income, the higher the credit. But you can’t claim the Retirement Savers credit if you’re under 18, a student, or can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.

File an Amended Return

What if you already filed your 2020 tax return? No problem – just file an amended tax return after May 17 to claim your new or increased tax breaks. You generally have three years from the date you filed your original return or two years from the date you paid any tax due to file an amended return (go with whichever date is later).

Use Form 1040-X to file an amended return. You can mail in a paper return or file electronically. We recommend e-filing your amended return, since it will be processed much faster. If you’re changing your IRA deduction, make sure you write “IRA deduction” and the amount of the increase or decrease in Part III of the form. Once you file an amended return, you can track its status online using the IRS’s “Where’s My Amended Return?” tool or by calling 866-464-2050.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Pick-and-Shovel Solar Stocks for the Green Energy Gold Rush

The solar energy boom is the modern equivalent of the California Gold Rush of 1848.  

Data from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association notes that it took 40 years to reach 1 million solar installations in the U.S., but just three more years to hit 2 million installations. And the forecast for 2021 alone is 3 million installations.  

Green energy exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are on the rise as earnings improve and investors pile into solar stocks. This is evidenced in the bellwether Invesco Solar ETF (TAN), which has more than doubled over the past year, though lately, it has cooled off.  

With climate change firmly atop the Biden administration’s agenda, the set up for solar stocks looks good. 

And like the supply companies that profited during the gold rush selling picks and shovels to eager prospectors, solar energy offers a similar “pick and shovel” opportunity. Companies that make components, batteries, the materials to produce panels or the software to manage them are riding the coattails of the inexorable march away from fossil fuels and toward solar power. 

Here are five of the best solar stocks that offer a differentiated strategy for profiting from the green energy boom.   

Data is as of May 10. 

1 of 5

SolarEdge Technologies

residential solar panelsresidential solar panels
  • Market value: $11.1 billion

Israel-based SolarEdge Technologies (SEDG, $213.34) makes inverters, a key component of the microgrid that delivers solar energy to where it’s needed in homes, schools, businesses, campuses and beyond.   

Shares of SEDG have been on a tear the last two years, but have declined more recently to current levels near $210 since hitting an all-time closing high near $365 in December.  

Sentiment has likely tempered on the solar stock thanks to a modest 2% rise in 2020 revenues and a 3% drop in net income. The company’s earnings release was mum on the precise reason for this, but declines in both gross and operating margins suggests that as the market for microgrids expands, so too do costs, at least at this stage of the game.

This should be of little concern for longer-term investors looking at solar stocks. 

First, SEDG is sitting on just over $1 billion in cash and marketable securities, with just $17 million in debt due this year.  

Next, cash flow from operations for 2020 was $223 million, almost twice reported net income, and this easily covered $126 million in capital expenditures (CapEx) with a sizable cushion left over.  

Finally, about 40% of SEDG sales come from the U.S. While renewable energy policies have been wobbly, a progressive administration coupled with 37 states that have renewable energy targets offers a good set up for sales and earnings growth. 

Consensus estimates for SolarEdge Technologies’ fiscal 2021 are $3.82 per share, which, if realized, would represent a 37% jump from 2020 basic earnings per share (EPS) of $2.79 – a pretty nice bump.

2 of 5

Enphase Energy

solar power invertersolar power inverter
  • Market value: $16.0 billion

Enphase Energy (ENPH, $118.12) also manufactures inverter systems. Unlike “string converters” made by SolarEdge, which draw power wholesale from all the panels in an installation, Enphase sells microinverters, which draw energy from individual panels as needed or as conditions allow, and, as a result, can be more efficient.    

Though microinverters cost more, the market for them may grow faster because they can be more responsive to site-specific conditions. Estimated average annual global growth for microinverters through 2025 is 21% versus about 15% for string inverters, according to Research and Markets, a market research firm. 

For investors who believe in the underlying fundamentals of the solar market and who are looking to buy the dips, Enphase might be the stock for you. 

Shares of the solar stock are off from their February highs of over $200, and took another hit after Enphase’s first-quarter report. While sales grew an impressive 46% year-over-year, earnings declined and ENPH reduced its second-quarter outlook based on semiconductor shortages and supply chain interruptions.

Enphase can weather these kinds of storms for now. It’s sitting on about $1.5 billion in cash, and while long-term debt is just over $900 million, the current portion is just $84 million. Operations last year threw off about $216 million in cash, while capital expenditures were modest at about $25 million. 

3 of 5

Generac Holdings

generatorgenerator
  • Market value: $19.2 billion

Generac Holdings (GNRC, $305.21) has grown handsomely selling backup generators to consumers who have become more attuned to and proactive toward power outages. Ice storms in Texas and fires in California offer vivid reminders about the importance of backup power. 

But in 2019, Generac entered the battery storage business with a pair of acquisitions. By purchasing Pika Energy and Neurio Technology, GNRC positioned itself to develop and distribute its PWRcell and PWRview solar power products.   

Sales are small and not broken out on earnings reports, but Generac touts PWRcell as a high-growth area for the company. And what we’re seeing with PWRcell today might be the thin end of the wedge, a set up many investors like. Think Apple (AAPL), where the relatively small services division is expected to be the next big leg of growth for the company, and contributed to about 19% of total sales in its fiscal second quarter. And at Amazon.com (AMZN), its web services division – at about 10% of total sales – is seen as one of the linchpins of the company’s growth. 

Generac enters the solar business with two distinct advantages. First, it’s reliably growing in its core generator business, increasing sales and cash flow at an average annual rate of 10% during the last five years, according to Value Line. Notably, cash flow from operations last year was some $487 million, plenty to finance its foray into the solar business.   

Second, unlike Enphase and SolarEdge, which rely principally on third-party sellers and are relatively young companies, Generac has been doing business since 1959, has a global network of 7,000 dealers and has decades of customer data that it can ply with its solar offering. 

Shares have been highfliers, up more than 250% since April of last year.  Arguably, much of the enthusiasm is being driven by generators, but GNRC could emerge as one of the best solar stocks as its green energy business takes hold. 

4 of 5

Daqo New Energy

Raw polysiliconRaw polysilicon
  • Market value: $5.3 billion

Daqo New Energy (DQ, $72.15) is based in China and produces polysilicon, which is used to make solar panels. Right now, China is the world’s largest producer of solar panels, and as a result, Daqo is well-positioned to capitalize on the country’s leadership in this green energy space. 

Another driver for Daqo shares is that demand for polysilicon is increasing and this is boosting prices. For instance, according to Bernreuter Research, in 2021 alone, prices per kilogram for polysilicon have risen from $11 to nearly $19, growth which goes straight to Daqo’s top line. Daqo is solidly profitable, and price increases for its core product are driving increases in its gross and operating margins.    

Chinese companies have been chipping away at the hegemony of Western polysilicon producers. Daqo, which is among the top 10 polysilicon producers in the world, typifies this trend with its recently announced production expansion which will add 35,000 metric tons of capacity, an increase of some 45%. 

With solar booming, Daqo will presumably find a home for all of this new polysilicon, at what looks like increasing prices and better margins. This could make DAQO one of the best solar stocks to have on your radar.

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CleanSpark

green technologygreen technology

Market value: $549.6 million

Almost nothing in this world works without software, and solar power is no exception. CleanSpark (CLSK, $16.23) offers a suite of software solutions that provide end-to-end microgrid modeling, communications and energy management. 

CleanSpark is tiny, but its market cap, at about $550 million, suggests some investors think it could be mighty. CLSK is not for the faint of heart, but the fact that it’s showing some momentum above and beyond what’s been seen in the broader green energy sector is notable. In the first three months of 2021, sales were up over 120% year-over-year.  And as of mid-April, the company reported significant growth in its backlog – up 220% from mid-February.   

CleanSpark doesn’t make money yet, but analysts are forecasting it will report a profit at the end of this quarter. If it does, catching the solar stock now might be a tenable first step in building a larger position long term. Of note, the second quarter earnings estimate, now 8 cents per share , has come down from an estimated 22 cents per share earlier this year, so conviction may be on the wane. 

Also noteworthy, CleanSpark is ramping up its participation in the Bitcoin mining business. Mining revenue didn’t appear as a line item on its most recent annual report, but it did show up in CLSK’s first-quarter results. And in April of this year, the company announced a material expansion of its Bitcoin mining operations.  

Carbon-belching Bitcoin mining and renewable energy can be somewhat at odds, but CleanSpark notes that 95% of the power for its mining operations is carbon free – an important marker for ESG investors, those focused on environmental, social and corporate governance, and perhaps a source of buying or support for the solar stock going forward. 

Source: kiplinger.com

5 States With No State Sales Tax

Many people don’t factor in sales taxes when they’re looking at the tax-friendliness of different states. That’s a mistake. Forty-five states plus the District of Columbia impose a sales tax. In addition, local sales tax is collected in 38 states. The combined state and local levy can be hefty, too. In fact, in Tennessee (which took the top spot in our round-up of the 10 States With the Highest Sales Tax), the average combined state and local sales tax is 9.55%, according to the Tax Foundation. That’s a big bite out of your wallet every time you make a purchase.

On the flip side, for states that don’t impose a sales tax — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon — residents are often hit hard with other taxes (like income or property taxes). Afterall, money for roads and schools has to come from somewhere. New Hampshire, for example, has some of the highest real estate taxes in the country. In Oregon, income tax rates can be as high as 9.9%, which is the fourth-highest top rate in the nation. 

The information below will help you understand more about what you will really pay to live in the five states with no sales tax. For each state, we’ve also included a link to our full guide to state taxes for middle-class families to help you put these shopping destinations in perspective.

Income tax brackets are 2020 values, unless otherwise noted. Property tax values are for 2019, the most recent data available.

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Alaska

The state of Alaska.The state of Alaska.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

Sales Tax: While the Last Frontier has no state sales tax (or else it wouldn’t be on this list), localities can levy sales taxes, which can go as high as 7.5%. But, according to the Tax Foundation, the statewide average is only 1.76%. That’s the lowest combined average rate for states that impose either state or local sales taxes.

Income Tax Range: No state income tax.

Property Taxes: In Alaska, the median property tax rate is $1,182 per $100,000 of assessed home value, which is above the national average.

For details on other state taxes, see the Alaska State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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Delaware

The state of Delaware.The state of Delaware.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Most tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: Delaware has no state or local sales taxes. It’s interesting to note that, in response, New Jersey halved its sales tax in Salem County, which borders Delaware.

Income Tax Range: Low: 2.2% (on taxable income from $2,001 to $5,000). High: 6.6% (on more than $60,000 of taxable income). The top rate is middle-of-the-road when compared to other states. Wilmington also imposes a city tax on wages.

Property Taxes: For Delaware homeowners, the median property tax rate is $562 per $100,000 of assessed home value — the lowest among the states featured on this list.

For details on other state taxes, see the Delaware State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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Montana

The state of Montana.The state of Montana.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: No state sales tax, but some resort destinations such as Big Sky, Red Lodge and West Yellowstone have local sales taxes.

Income Tax Range: Low: 1% (on up to $3,100 of taxable income). High: 6.9% (on more than $18,700 of taxable income).

Starting in 2022, the top rate will be 6.75% on taxable income over $17,400. Then, beginning in 2024, the income tax rates and brackets will be substantially revised (there will only be two rates – 4.7% and 6.5%).

Property Taxes: For homeowners in Montana, the median property tax rate is $831 for every $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the Montana State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire.The state of New Hampshire.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Mixed tax picture

State Sales Tax: None.

Income Tax Range: New Hampshire doesn’t have an income tax. But there’s a 5% tax on dividends and interest in excess of $2,400 for individuals ($4,800 for joint filers).

Property Taxes: The median property tax rate in New Hampshire is $2,050 for every $100,000 of assessed home value. 

For details on other state taxes, see the New Hampshire State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

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Oregon

The state of Oregon.The state of Oregon.

Overall Rating for Middle-Class Families: Not tax-friendly

State Sales Tax: None.

Income Tax Range: Low: 4.75% (on up to $7,200 of taxable income for married joint filers and up to $3,600 for single filers). High: 9.9% (on more than $250,000 of taxable income for married joint filers and more than $125,000 for single filers). Dollar figures for 2020 are not available yet, so 2019 amounts are shown.

A “kicker” tax credit may be available on tax returns for odd-numbered years. The credit is authorized if actual state revenues exceed forecasted revenues by 2% or more over the two-year budget cycle.

Property Taxes: The median property tax rate for Oregon homeowners is $903 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

For details on other state taxes, see the Oregon State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

Source: kiplinger.com

9 Reasons to File a Tax Return Even If You Don’t Have To (Warning: They’re Due May 17!)

Filling out tax forms is a pain in the you-know-what. So why on earth would anyone file a tax return if they don’t have to? Well, actually, there’s one very important reason why – you might get a big, fat check from the government.

People with income under a certain amount (see table below) aren’t required to file a tax return because they won’t owe any tax. But if you qualify for certain tax credits or already paid some federal income tax, Uncle Sam might owe you a refund that you can only get by filing a return. Think about that for a minute!

If you want to know more, here are 9 reasons why you might want to file a tax return this year even if you don’t have to. Also remember that this year’s tax deadline was extended from April 15 to May 17, 2021 – so there’s still time to claim any money the government owes you. But you better act fast, since you now have less than one week until the due date.

Federal Tax Return Filing Requirements (2020 Tax Year):

Filing Status and Age at End of 2020

Income Required to File 2020 Return

Single; Under 65

$12,400

Single; 65 or Older

$14,050

Married Filing Jointly; Both Spouses Under 65

$24,800

Married Filing Jointly; One Spouse 65 or Older

$26,100

Married Filing Jointly; Both Spouses 65 or Older

$27,400

Married Filing Separately; Any Age

$5

Head of Household; Under 65

$18,650

Head of Household; 65 or Older

$20,300

Qualifying Widow(er); Under 65

$24,800

Qualifying Widow(er); 65 or Older

$26,100

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Withheld Taxes

picture of IRS Form W-4picture of IRS Form W-4

If an employer withheld federal income taxes from your paycheck last year, or taxes were withheld from other sources of income in 2020, you might be entitled to a refund if you file a tax return before the May 17 deadline.

If you don’t owe any tax – and, therefore, aren’t required to file a return – then it only makes sense that any taxes you already paid should be refunded to you. But you won’t get that money back if you don’t file a 1040 form.

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Taxes Paid

picture of lettered blocks spelling out "Estimated Tax"picture of lettered blocks spelling out "Estimated Tax"

Withholding isn’t the only way you could have already paid taxes for 2020 to Uncle Sam. For example, if you received income as an independent contractor or were otherwise self-employed, you may have made estimated tax payments last year. If you filed a 2019 tax return, you may have applied your refund from that return to your 2020 taxes (it’s optional).

If you paid 2020 taxes in advance in one of these two ways, make sure you file a tax return even if your overall income is below the applicable filing threshold amount. That will allow you to get that money back. But don’t dawdle…you only have until May 17 to get your 1040 form to the IRS.

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Earned Income Tax Credit

picture of a woman delivering pizzapicture of a woman delivering pizza

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is for lower income working people. If you qualify for the credit, then you definitely want to file a tax return. The credit is “refundable,” meaning that if it’s worth more than the income tax you owe, the IRS will issue you a refund check for the difference. (With a “nonrefundable” credit, you don’t get a refund because the tax you owe isn’t reduced below zero.) The EITC is the first of several refundable credits that we’ll discuss.

For 2020 tax returns, the maximum EITC ranges from $538 to $6,660 depending on your income and how many children you have. (For your 2021 return, the range will be $1,502 to $6,728.) So, it’s well worth the time it takes to complete a tax form if you qualify for the credit.

The income limits to qualify for the EITC are fairly low. For example, if you don’t have kids, you can qualify if your 2020 earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) are each less than $15,820 for singles and $21, 710 for joint filers. (For 2021, those income limits rise to $15,980 and $21,920, respectively.) If you have three or more children and are married, though, your 2020 earned income and AGI can be as high as $56,844 ($57,414 in 2021). Plus, you can use your earned income from 2019 to determine the EITC for the 2020 tax year if it results in a higher credit amount. There are many exceptions and other rules, but the IRS has a handy online tool to help you figure out if you’re eligible for the credit.

For temporary changes to the 2021 EITC, see 6 Biden Stimulus Benefits That Pack the Biggest Punch.

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Child Tax Credit

picture of mother watch one child playfully smashing a cupcake into another child's facepicture of mother watch one child playfully smashing a cupcake into another child's face

For the 2020 tax year, parents with children age 16 or younger may qualify for the child tax credit. The maximum credit amount is $2,000 per child, but up to $1,400 of the credit can be refundable. And that’s per child! So, like the EITC, you could end up with a nice refund check by filing a return just to claim this credit.

Not sure if you qualify for the credit? The IRS has an online tool to help with that.

Also note that, if you don’t qualify for the child tax credit, you might be able to claim a different tax credit for your dependents. There’s something called the “credit for other dependents,” and it’s worth up to $500 for each qualifying dependent. It’s a nonrefundable credit, though. So, it won’t trigger a refund if you otherwise don’t owe any tax.

There are a lot of temporary enhancements to the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year. The amounts are higher, more children qualify, it’s fully refundable, and the IRS will make advance monthly payments later this year (which you can estimate using our 2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator). For all the details, see Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs.

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American Opportunity Tax Credit

picture of four college students hanging out on some stepspicture of four college students hanging out on some steps

The American Opportunity credit covers expenses for students who are in their first four years of college. The credit is worth up to $2,500, and it can be claimed by a parent, spouse or student who is not claimed as a dependent who for tuition, fees, or textbooks.

The credit is partially refundable. So, if the credit is worth more than your tax liability for the year, you’ll get a refund check for 40% of the remaining amount – up $1,000 for each qualifying student. That should be enough to get you to complete a tax return if you don’t otherwise have to file one.

As with the EITC and child tax credit, the IRS has an online tool to help you figure out if you’re eligible for the American Opportunity credit. It will also help you determine if you can claim the Lifetime Learning credit or the tuition and fees deduction.

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Premium Tax Credit

picture of a magnifying glass over a book about ObamaCarepicture of a magnifying glass over a book about ObamaCare

The premium tax credit helps people pay for insurance they buy through the health insurance marketplace (i.e., Obamacare). The credit is available for people with household incomes ranging from 100% to 400% of the federal poverty level. The amount of the premium tax credit is based on a sliding scale, so that people with a lower income get a larger credit.

An estimated credit is calculated when you go on a marketplace website such as healthcare.gov to buy insurance. At that point, you can choose to have the credit paid in advance directly to the insurance company to lower your monthly payments, or you can choose to get all the benefit of the credit when you file your tax return for the year. If you elect to have advance premium tax credit (APTC) payments made to the insurer, you will have to reconcile the amount paid in advance with the actual credit you compute when you file your tax return. Either way, you will need to complete Form 8962 and attach it to your tax return.

The premium tax credit is another refundable credit. So, if the amount of the credit is more than the amount of the tax you owe, you’ll receive the difference as a refund if you file a tax return. If you owe no tax, you can get the full amount of the credit as a refund. However, if your actual allowable credit is less than your APTC payments, the difference is usually subtracted from your refund or added to the tax you owe – except that the repayment of excess advance premium tax credit (APTC) amounts was suspended for 2020. Therefore, if you already filed your 2020 tax return and had excess APTC payments, the IRS will automatically reduce the excess APTC repayment amount to zero and send you a refund if one is required.

Be warned, though, that the IRS typically looks for people who receive advance credits and either don’t file returns or file returns incorrectly reporting the credit. So, monkeying around with the premium tax credit is a good way to get your return audited.

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Health Coverage Tax Credit

picture of a stethoscope on money picture of a stethoscope on money

The health coverage tax credit helps certain displaced workers and pre-retirees pay for health insurance. Specifically, it is available to (1) people eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance allowances because of a qualifying job loss, and (2) people between 55 and 64 years old whose pension plans were taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The credit is worth up to 72.5% of payments for qualified health insurance coverage.

As with the other credits we’ve mentioned, the health coverage credit is refundable. So, if you can claim the credit, you’ll want to file a tax return just to claim the credit, even if you’re not required to file a return. By doing so, you can get a federal income tax refund check sent to you.

As with the premiums tax credit, the health coverage credit can be paid in advance. That also means that your refund will be smaller (or eliminated) if the advance credit payments are greater than your actual allowable credit. There’s no suspension of 2020 excess payments of the health coverage credit like there is for the premium tax credit.

Also note that the health coverage credit was set to expire at the end of 2020, but it was extended to December 31, 2021.

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Recovery Rebate Credit

picture of man holding sign saying "Stimulus Checks"picture of man holding sign saying "Stimulus Checks"

If you didn’t get a first- or second-round stimulus check, or you didn’t get the full amount, you may be able to get paid now by claiming the recovery rebate credit on your 2020 tax return. Those two stimulus checks were actually just advance payments of the credit. So, if you didn’t get the money earlier, you should get it now (assuming you’re eligible).

You’re generally eligible to claim the recovery rebate credit on your 2020 return if, in 2020, you:

  • Were a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien;
  • Can’t be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return; and
  • Have a Social Security number valid for employment that’s issued before the due date of your 2020 tax return (including extensions).

Calculation of the recovery rebate credit is generally the same as the calculation for the first two rounds of stimulus checks, except that they’re based on information from different sources. The first-round stimulus checks were typically based on information from either your 2018 or 2019 tax return, whichever was most recently filed when the IRS began processing your return. If you didn’t file a return for either of those two years, you could send the IRS the necessary information through an online portal. If you received benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), Railroad Retirement Board, or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the IRS got the information it needed from those other government agencies. Second-round stimulus checks were based on either your 2019 return, information previously obtained through the IRS’s non-filers online portal, or information received from another government agency. However, the amount of your recovery rebate credit is based entirely on information found on your 2020 tax return. For more information, see What’s the Recovery Rebate Credit?

There will also be a recovery rebate credit for 2021 tax year returns. That will be for people who didn’t receive a third-round stimulus check (or didn’t receive the full amount). To calculate the amount of your third stimulus check, use Kiplinger’s Third Stimulus Check Calculator. For more information on third-round stimulus checks, see Your Third Stimulus Check: How Much? When? And Other FAQs.

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Credits for Sick and Family Leave

picture of sick woman in bed taking her temperaturepicture of sick woman in bed taking her temperature

Many employers were required to provide paid sick and family leave in 2020 for workers affected by COVID-19. However, to shift most of the financial burden for paid leave off the employer’s back, tax credits were also made available to reimburse employers for some of the cost. Self-employed people who couldn’t work because of the coronavirus got similar refundable tax credits, too.

The credits are generally equivalent to the amount of qualified sick or family leave wages the self-employed person would have received if he or she were an employee of an employer. To be eligible for the 2020 self-employment credits, you must have regularly carried on a trade or business during 2020 and been eligible to receive sick or family leave wages if you had been an employee of an employer (other than yourself). Complete Form 7202 to calculate the credit amount.

People who paid household employment taxes might also be able to claim a refundable credit for a portion of any sick or family leave wages you paid that were related to the coronavirus. The amount of this credit is shown on Schedule H, Line 8e.

As with the other refundable credits discussed, the credits for sick and family leave can lower your tax bill or even result in a tax refund. So, make sure you claim them even if you aren’t required to file a 2020 tax return.

Source: kiplinger.com