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Tax Season Leaves Some Scrambling

[Sunday, April 27th, 2014]

April is the cruelest month, so the saying goes—but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) did what they could to make it a bit easier this year, at least financially, by offering free information on making the most of your finances. For those left holding a big tax bill after April 15, this information comes just in time to help them figure out how to handle their debt.

As well as being tax-deadline month, April is financial literacy month. In light of this, the FTC highlighted consumer tips about handling debt, savings account savvy, smart use of credit cards, buying a home, funding a college education and more.

Tips for handling debt, including debt leftover from paying taxes, include:

  • Contact your creditors. If you are having trouble making payments, they will often work with consumers to figure out a payment plan.
  • Know your rights. Debt collectors can only contact you during certain hours, and they must stop if they receive a written request from consumers.
  • Reach out to a certified credit counselor. If you cannot manage your debt alone, get help. The FTC website offers more information about finding a reputable credit counseling agency.

The FTC also offers a wealth of information on how to file complaints in case of fraud or other financial wrongdoing. They focus on following up on deceptive business practices and enforcing financial laws.

Using a balance transfer to ease tax woes

One way to deal with an unexpected tax bill is to pay it off with a credit card. But for taxpayers who choose the credit card route, it’s important not to get stuck paying high interest rates on that tax bill.

Using a balance transfer credit card to get an introductory 0% APR for a period of time is one way to ensure that putting taxes on a credit card doesn’t result in a larger debt burden. There are many of these types of offers, ranging from six months interest-free up to 18 months. The longer offers tend to be targeted at consumers with good or excellent credit, so it’s important for potential applicants to be aware of their credit history. A free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—is available to all consumers once a year through annualcreditreport.com.

For more post-tax-season advice on handling debt and many other topics, visit the FTC’s consumer education website, FTC.gov/MoneyMatters. They offer shareable tips for every age group: students, parents, retired people and active duty military service members.

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