Millions of Americans have been struggling financially ever since COVID-19 became a clear-cut problem in the United States. Since March, unemployment levels have been through the roof, and many people who haven't lost their jobs outright have instead seen their income decline.
If you're in a tough spot financially, you may be looking to different cash sources to ride out the pandemic. You could, for example, try borrowing against your home, taking out a bank loan, or even withdrawing from your retirement account to access money in a pinch. But here's another cash source you may be able to tap: the IRS. Here's how.
1. File your 2019 taxes immediately to snag your refund
Most people who file a tax return wind up with a refund. If you've yet to file your 2019 taxes but typically receive money back from the IRS, submitting that return as quickly as possible is a good way to pump cash into your bank account sooner rather than later. Though you have until July 15 to get that return in this year, the sooner you complete it, the sooner you get your money.
But if you're going to file a tax return, do so electronically. At one point, the IRS effectively paused the processing of paper returns, and it's unclear what the refund turnaround looks like for those who send in a tax return by mail. On the other hand, refunds for electronically filed returns are typically issued within three weeks, and if you sign up for direct deposit, you'll get your money sooner than you would if you were to wait for a paper check.
2. Adjust your withholding to get more money in your paychecks
The money you collect in your paycheck isn't just a function of your salary or hourly wage; it depends on the number of allowances you claim on your W-4. That form is what employers use to determine how much tax to withhold from your earnings. The more allowances you claim, the less money you lose to taxes up front, and the higher your paychecks get. As such, it pays to review your withholding and see if an adjustment is in order. Claiming even one extra allowance could result in an instant paycheck boost.
3. Amend a previous year's tax return
The tax code is loaded with credits and deductions that can save taxpayers serious money. That's why it pays to take a look at some of the recent tax returns you filed and make sure you really claimed the tax breaks you were eligible for. If you missed out on some opportunities, but you're within three years of having filed those returns, you have the option to file an amended tax return -- one with a higher refund attached to it. That said, it does typically take the IRS up to 16 weeks to process an amended return, and because amended returns from tax years prior to 2019 must be filed on paper, it's hard to say when you might receive any extra refund money you're due. But it still pays to file an amendment if you realize there's additional cash you're entitled to.
At a time when so many Americans are desperate for money, it pays to do whatever you can to improve your personal cash flow and ease your financial stress. Think about the ways you might be able to eke out more cash -- and avoid debt -- during these very trying times.