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Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Your Money & Finances Edition A Star-Herald Supplement Serving Scottsbluff/Gering

Rachel Clemens

Kenzie Duncan

Scottsbluff High School

Gering High School

■ Class: Senior

■ Class: Senior

■ What is your favorite subject and why? Any literature or English class because I love reading and grammar.

■ What is your favorite subject and why? My favorite subject is Pre-Calc, it’s challenging but it makes you feel good when you can figure it out.

■ What are the keys to having a successful high school career? Definitely staying organized, checking your grades regularly and doing your homework on time.

■ What are the keys to having a successful high school career? The keys are to being involved in clubs and activities, and also taking courses that challenge you while keeping good grades.

■ What are your future goals? To go to college and major in music, and then eventually become a music therapist.

■ What are your future goals? I plan to go to college and pursue a degree in Psychology.

■ What was your top academic achievement? Keeping a high GPA while being involved in a lot of activities. ■ Who do you consider a good role model? My late aunt Rita Hoban Walsh, who always kept a positive attitude through everything. ■ Favorite book? “Elsewhere,” by Gabrielle Zevin ■ Do you have brothers or sisters? If so, what are their names and ages? I have three sisters. Meghan (20), Caragh (12) and Hallie (3).

Honors National Honor Society, S p a n i s h H o n o r S o c i e t y, Nebraska Young Artist Award, Superintendent’s Honor Roll, UNO Honors Orchestra, Quill and Scroll International.

Activities Drill team, orchestra, yearbook staff, Spanish Club, dance, music ministry, TEAMS mentoring program, NIKE.

■ Parents: Jerry and Sheila Clemens

■ What was your top academic achievement? Getting into National Honor Society.

Honors Honor Roll, Quill and Scroll, National Honor Society.

Activities Basketball, volleyball, track, National Honor Society, Quill and Scroll, Yearbook, and GGAA.

■ Favorite book? “Heaven is for Real” ■ Do you have brothers or sisters? If so, what are their names and ages? I have two brothers Josh, 21; and Alex, 13. ■ Parents: Darren and Sandy Duncan

Tax tips from Social Security

Unemployment insurance benefits taxable

and any other income such as wages, pensions, or investment income is high It is never too early to plan for filing the next tax enough, you may have to return. Here are Social Se- pay taxes on a portion of your benefits. Plan accordcurity’s top three tips for making tax time a lot easi- ingly as you work out your budget. You may have to er. pay taxes on your Social Se1) Don’t forget the curity benefits if: you file as children. Make sure the an individual and have a tokids (and all the depental annual income of dents) you list on your an$25,000 or more; or you file nual tax forms have Social Security numbers. Yes, chil- a joint return and have a dren do need Social Securi- combined total annual income of $32,000 or more. ty numbers. There once If you need to pay taxes was a time when a child did not require a Social Securi- on a portion of your benety card until later in life, but fits, you will need your SSA1099. This form shows the in 2012, that day is long total amount of benefits regone. If you want to claim ceived in the previous year your child as a dependent and the form is used to find on your tax return, your out whether any benefits child will need a Social Seare subject to tax. curity number. For many You will receive your families, it is not only the SSA-1099 for the tax year in kids who will need a number, but all dependents list- the mail — they are automatically mailed to all beneed on your federal tax reficiaries by January 31 of turn need one. This inthe following year. If you recludes a dependent parent ceive Social Security and do who lives with you and receives support from you. If not receive a Form SSA1099 for 2011 by January any of your dependents need a Social Security num- 31, 2012, you can request a ber, you can get an applica- replacement online at at lineservices. Or you can call Social Security’s toll2) Check the names free number, 1-800-772-1213 and numbers. It is not (TTY, 1-800-325-0778) and enough for everyone on ask for a replacement SSAyour tax return to have a 1099 to be mailed to you. Social Security number — You can ask us to withthey also must be the corhold federal taxes from rect numbers, and they must match your names ex- your Social Security when actly. The Internal Revenue you apply for benefits. If Service (IRS) checks all the you are already receiving benefits or if you want to names and Social Security numbers on your tax return change or stop your withholding, you will need a against Social Security’s form W-4V from the Interrecords. If the names and nal Revenue Service (IRS). numbers do not match SoWhen you complete the cial Security’s records, you form, you will need to select will receive a letter from the percentage of your IRS asking you to explain the discrepancy. You cannot monthly benefit amount you want withheld. You can receive a tax refund until the discrepancy is resolved have 7 percent, 10 percent, — which could mean an un- 15 percent or 25 percent of your monthly benefit withnecessarily long delay. 3) Paying taxes on So- held for taxes. cial Security benefits. If Sheri Olsson is Social you receive Social Security Security District Manager benefits and your total inin Scottsbluff come, including benefits By SHERI OLSSON

By CAROLE FELDMAN Associated Press

The jobless rate is dipping, but millions of people are still out of work. And that could have implications when they file their income tax returns. Collecting unemployment insurance benefits? All that you received in 2011 is taxed as income. Unless you requested that federal taxes be withheld, you could be in for a big surprise when you calculate taxes owed. “People tend to believe unemployment benefits are still not taxable,” said Bob Meighan, a vice president at TurboTax. That was the case in 2009, for the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits. But that provision was not renewed by Congress. If it’s any consolation, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket because of reduced income, even counting the unemployment benefits. And you might also be eligible for tax breaks that you didn’t qualify for before. “If you have major household changes, say you lost your job in 2011, we encourage people to take a close look at things like the earned income credit,” Internal Revenue Ser vice spokesman Terry Lemons said. He said people should go ahead and file their taxes even if they don’t have the money to pay any taxes that are due. “There are more options there than many people realize,” he said, including installment agreements. The aftermath of the Great Recession, which gripped the nation from 2007 to 2009, is still being felt across America. Employers still worried about the state of the economy are hesitant to bring on new workers. And many of the more than 13 million unemployed people have stopped looking for jobs. For those who spent part or all of 2011 searching for work, there are tax breaks. “All of those job search expenses are deductible — the stationery, the longdistance phone calls, the hotels, anything you can relate to the job search,” said Jeff Schnepper, author of “How to Pay Zero Taxes” (McGraw-Hill, 2011). To qualify for this deduction, you have to be looking for a job in the same field or profession as your previous one. Expenses incurred trying to get your first job are not deductible. You also have to itemize. And the cost of preparing your resume, working with job search services, mileage

■ If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? I would change the poverty in the world, because people die everyday due to not having enough food or water.


In this file photo taken Jan. 7, 2011, unemployed workers use computers to search for jobs at the Virginia Employment Commission’s Reemploy Virginia office in Mechanicsville, Va. The jobless rate is dipping, but millions of people are still out of work. And that could have implications when they file their income tax returns for 2011.

and other job search expenses has to exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income if you are to benefit, according to Greg Rosica, tax partner with Ernst & Young. Make sure you save your receipts. “You have to be able to substantiate,” he said. Those out of work may find the jobs have dried up in their cities or towns. “Many people are picking up and moving to where the jobs are,” Meighan said. If you land a job across town or across the country, you might be eligible to take a deduction for moving expenses. “It’s an above-the-line deduction, dollar for dollar a reduction in your income,” Schnepper said. In this case, unlike job-search expenses, you don’t have to itemize to take advantage of the deduction. To qualify, there’s a distance test that has to be met: Your new job has to be at least 50 miles farther from your old house than your former job was. Also unlike the job-search deduction, you can deduct moving expenses even if this is your first job, provided your workplace is at least 50 miles from your former home. Same if you’re returning to work after being unemployed, the IRS says. And there’s a requirement that you work at least 39 weeks in the new location over the first 12 months in the

new area. You can take the deduction even if you started your job late in the year and won’t meet the time test in 2011. But if you fail to meet it in 2012, you’ll either have to file an amended return or report the deduction as income when you do your 2012 taxes. What’s deductible? The IRS says expenses that are “reasonable for the circumstances of your move.” That includes the cost of moving yourself and members of your household, as well as your household goods and personal effects. Shipping a car or the family pet is covered. If you drove to your new home during the first half of 2011, the mileage rate is 19 cents per mile. The rate for July through December is 23.5 cents a mile. Or, the IRS gives you the option of deducting the actual cost of gas and oil for the car. But if the car broke down on the move, you cannot deduct the cost of the repair. The cost of lodging on the way to your new home is deductible, but not the meals you eat on the road. These days, “moving can be hard to do,” especially if you can’t sell your house in the depressed housing market, said Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Services. If you decide to commute to the new job instead of relocating, those commuting expenses are not deductible. To claim the moving expense deduction, file Form 3903 with your tax.

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Twin Cities Neighbors



Education the key to investment buy in By RICK WILLIS

e had checking accounts in the third grade,” Dorvall said. “We had 4-H income that we used to pay for half our school clothes. It helped us understand the value of money.”


Staff Reporter

Sneakers marketed to teenagers running $150 a pair send mixed messages about the value of money. According to Brandy Dorvall, a Scottsbluff Edward Jones financial adviser, and early education is the best way to help children learn to save money. Dorvall said her parents taught her the value of money at an early age. “We had checking accounts in the third grade,” Dorvall said. “We had 4-H income that we used to pay for half our school clothes. It helped us understand the value of money.” Dorvall said it’s hard for kids who are bombarded by societal materialism to save money instead of buying something that is the hottest trend. Education is the key, Dorvall said. “I spoke to one high school class in Montana that had a $10,000 fake stock portfolio about the basics of stock investing,” Dor vall said. “They were buying Apple, McDonalds and Nike, they were digging it.” Dorvall said that Edward Jones offers a seminar for teaching children money management skills called How to Raise a MoneySmart Child. The custodial account has no maintenance fee but does have the usual stock transaction fees a broker charges for purchase or sale of stock. “What I try to teach is the time-value of money in a simple way,” Dorvall said. “The Rule of 72.” Using a 10 percent return, the Rule of 72 means an investment will double

— Brandy Dorvall, Edward Jones financial adviser every 7.2 years. Dorvall said that her sister took the lesson to heart and is teaching fellow students and teachers about investing. A study by Bloomberg said $10,000 invested in Dividend Growers & Initiators in 1972 would have garnered $286,000 by 2010. Dorvall said historically, dividends account for about 50 percent of returns. Dorvall said people have to understand the process before they will buy into investing. Education is a huge component of the investment

process, “Why should they invest, why should they save, how much should they save?” Dorvall said. “My job is to help them understand the need for goals, to reach their goals and to hold them accountable.” Dorvall said before anyone can star t investing they should have a fund worth three months of living expenses. It makes no sense, Dorvall added, to pull money out of an investment to meet monthly expenses. “The hardest part of this job is to tell someone who comes in with $100,000 in investments and says ‘I’m good,’” Dorvall said. “I have to tell them ‘you will run out of money!’” Dorvall said investment income should equal current income so clients can maintain the same lifestyle when they retire. Education and desire are two components that are important when investing. Dorvall uses the example of her sister, Bobby

Dorvall, as someone with desire to save. When Bobby, 17, showed up at school with a new car, her classmates teased her, because they thought her dad purchased the car. T ur ns out that Dor vall bought the car with proceeds from stock investments. Her first stock investment was a bum calf. She used proceeds from her “stock investment” to buy more livestock. She then used those sales proceeds to buy sheep. She used that profit to buy stock equities when she was 14. Proceeds from those equities she used to buy the car. “My sister has always been money minded,” Dorvall said. “She’s just a saver. Always has been.” For retirement calculators log on to or the Social Security Administration offers a retirement benefit estimator at

Call the school to order between Jan. 13-23

632-2230 The enchiladas will be made on February 15th & 16th. They may be picked up on Thursday, February 16th.

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511 W. 14th St Scottsbluff, NE 632-2230

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Our Lady of Guadalupe Church 1102 12th Ave. Scottsbluff Baha’i Faith Bible Missionary Church Calvary Memorial Evangelical Free Church Central Church of Christ Christ The King Catholic Church

Anchor Baptist Baha’i Faith Berean Bible Church Bethel Baptist Church Bethel Christian Fellowship Bible Baptist Church Bluffview Church of Christ Calvary Lutheran Church ELCA ChuckWagon Church Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints Church of Nazarene Community Christian Fellowship Community of Christ Church Ebenezer Temple Emmanuel Congregational Church First Assembly of God First Baptist Church First Christian Church Disciples of Christ

GERING CHURCHES Cleansing Flame Worship Center Faith Lutheran Church (LC-MS) First United Methodist Church of Gering Center Cross Community Church

SCOTTSBLUFF CHURCHES First Church of Christ Scientist Reading Room First Church of God First Presbyterian Church First United Methodist Church Grace Chapel House of Miracles Church of God Iglesia de Cristo Eastside Jehovah’s Witnesses King of Kings Lutheran Church (WELS) Monument Bible Church Monument Wesleyan Church New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Plymouth Congregational Church

Gering Zion Church Living Stones Christian Church Maranatha Temple New Life Christian Fellowship Northfield Church Rejoice Lutheran Church Prairie Vista Unitarian Universalist Church River of Life Assembly of God St. Agnes Catholic Church St. Francis Episcopal Church St. James Lutheran Church (LC-MS) St. John’s Lutheran Church (LC-MS) Salem Congregational Church Scottsbluff Church of Christ Seventh Day Adventist Church Templo Fuente de Vida The Abbey, A CMHC Church The Rock Valley Bible Church WestWay Christian Church Zion Evangelical Church

This Sponsor Encourages You To Attend The Church Of Your Choice


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For more information contact Christy 308-632-3381 or Darrell Bentley 436-5559



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Twin Cities Neighbors



The $950,000 daily coffee and muffin “T By RICK WILLIS Staff Reporter

Could your morning ritual cost almost $1 million? In his book, The Automatic Millionaire, author David Bach gives the example how drinking a latte each morning can ruin an investment strategy. His point is the cost of the latte (combined with a muf fin) each day r uns about $150 monthly. If that money were invested at 10 percent rate of return, the total would reach $950,000 by retirement. Tim Jordening, a registered representative for Farm Bureau Financial Services, said he looks for the Latte Factor when he sits down with a new client. “That’s what someone like me does,” Jordening said. “Sits down and shows them what that Latte Factor is.”

here’s an old adage ‘pay yourself first’ but it goes back to the latte factor. You have to find that money to put away. It could be as simple as cutting out a fast food meal once a week to get that $40 to $50 a month to put away.”

— Tim Jordening, Farm Bureau Financial Services Jordening said it’s never too early to start investing. “The sooner the better,” Jordening said. “There’s an old adage ‘pay yourself first’ but it goes back to the latte factor. You have to find that money to put away. It could be as simple as cutting out a fast food meal once a week to get that $40 to $50 a month to put away.”

Jordening said for most young people a Roth IRA would be a good investment vehicle. According to Investopedia, the “Roth IRA allows an investor to invest money with after tax money. An individual retirement plan that bears many similarities to the traditional IRA, but contributions are not tax deductible and qualified distributions are tax free.” Many companies offer a tax-deferred plan called a 401(k) retirement plan. According to the IRS, “A 401(k) plan is a type of taxqualified deferred compensation plan in which an employee can elect to have the employer contribute a portion of his or her cash

wages to the plan on a pretax basis. Generally, these deferred wages (commonly referred to as elective contributions) are not subject to income tax withholding at the time of deferral, and they are not reflected on your Form 1040 since they were not included in the taxable wages on your Form W-2.” Platte Valley Bank offers a Junior Investors Savings Club option for children younger than 18 years of age. PVB Assistant Vice President/Director of Marketing Mindy Burbach said there is no fee for the service. “The activities teach kids to understand the importance of saving money and help to build life skills, how

to write a check,” Burbach said. “We also teach them how parents have to work to earn money.” The bank also brings in a trust advisor to help children understand about stocks and bonds, saving up for retirement and college. Burbach said the club help teaches the difference between “needs” and “wants” during the quarterly meetings of the club. Once potential savings can be identified with his clients, Jordening works with them to find a place to put those savings to work. In many cases, a client will use an investment fund, which combines many different company equities (stocks). Some stock funds are managed toward a par-

ticular retirement year. “The key is diversification,” Jordening said. “A big selling point of those funds is automatic rebalancing and diversification.” To figure your own “latte factor,” log on to The Gering public library has one copy of the Automatic Millionaire as well as a copy of Bach’s book the Automatic Millionaire Homeowner in its section on investing. The Scottsbluf f Public Lied Library also has one copy of the Automatic Millionaire and its companion Star t Late, Finish Rich. Start Late, Finish Rich is tailored to those in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who forgot to save.



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1650 10th Street Gering, NE 69341 308-436-5066

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10:37 AM

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Twin Cities Neighbors



Individual, capital gains rates unchanged for 2012 By CAROLE FELDMAN Associated Press

As Americans receive their first paychecks of the new year, there are some tax provisions they can count on. Individual tax rates will be the same for 2012 as they were in 2011, as will the 15 percent maximum tax rate on capital gains. People at higher incomes won’t see their personal exemptions or deductions phased out. And credits for adopting a child and for college expenses continue. But several deductions, credits and other provisions that existed for 2011 will no longer be in place. The alternative minimum tax exemptions will drop to pre-2001 levels if Congress doesn’t pass a patch and make it retroactive to cover the entire year. If history is any guide, however, Congress will do that. Similarly, without congressional action people over 70½ will no longer be able to make tax-free withdrawals from their IRAs for a charitable contribution, and teachers won’t be able to take a $250 deduction for

Some of the tax law provisions still in effect for 2012:

4The Bush tax cuts, which set marginal income tax rates of 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, 28 percent, 33 percent and 35 percent. These rates will increase beginning in 2013 unless they are renewed by Congress. 4Capital gains tax rates of 0 percent and 15 percent. Capital gains generally are the increase in the value of an asset, such as stock or a home, from time of purchase until sale. Net long-term capital gains — those on assets held more than a year — are taxed at the 0 percent or 15 percent rate. Net gains on assets held less than a year — short-term gains — are taxed at the regular income tax rates. 4The child tax credit of $1,000 per child. The credit will drop to $500 in 2013 unless Congress acts. 4The higher earned income tax credit for families with three or more children. After 2012, families with three or more children will be treated the same as those with two children if Congress doesn’t pass an extension. 4The credit for expenses associated with the adoption of a child. However, the adoption credit is no longer refundable and is limited to $12,650 in 2012. It phases out for people with higher incomes. 4The American Opportunity Credit, which allows a maximum credit of $2,500 for tuition and other expenses for each of the first four years of higher education. The credit, which also phases out at higher incomes, is partially refundable.


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tle will resume later this year. Tax experts advise people to monitor other developments as well. The IRS recommends reviewing your withholding sometime during the year to make sure it is in line with what your tax liability is likely to be. There’s a withholding calculator on its website, By having less withheld, people can get their money upfront, rather than waiting for a refund. For most of us, checking our withholding and preparing tax returns are among the biggest financial tasks we face, Lemons said.

Some of the provisions that expired at the end of 2011:

4A patch for the alternative minimum tax. Absent congressional action, the exemption will drop to $45,000 for married couples filing jointly, $33,750 for single person or the head of a household, and $22,500 for married people filing separately. 4The deduction for state and local sales taxes, in lieu of state and local income taxes. 4The deduction for qualified tuition and fees.

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Twin Cities Neighbors



Filing your taxes: There’s an app for that By CAROLE FELDMAN Associated Press

For the taxpayer on the go trying to file a return quickly and easily, there’s an app for it. “We’re trying to anticipate and follow trends you see in the real world,” said Bob Meighan, a vice president at TurboTax. And the trend is mobile, fr om smar t phones to tablets. “People want simple solutions,” he said. Taxes-on-the-go applications are a natural next step to the explosion in electronic filing. TurboTax has SnapTax, which allows those filing the simplest tax form — 1040EZ — to file directly from their iPhone or android. Similarly, H&R Block has H&R Block At Home for filing simple returns via those smart phones. The IRS says the typical 1040EZ filer is a wage earner who has income of less than $100,000, is under 65, and doesn’t have kids, own a home, or qualify for most other deductions or credits. Meighan said about 24 million people file the 1040EZ. “You can literally do your return in 10 or 15 minutes max,” he said. Taxpayers can use smart phones to take pictures of documents like the W-2


This app image courtesy of TurboTax shows their SnapTax app. Taxes-on-the-go applications are a natural next step to the explosion in electronic filing.

form, and an optical reader in the application imports the photos into the tax forms. Both companies allow you to download the applications

for free, but there’s a cost for filing. “We take away the barrier of entry, provide confidence along the way and provide

support along the way,” said Gene King, spokesman for H&R Block. He said the company also offers audit protection for filers using the smart phone app. What if you lose your phone? “People should always be concerned about security,” Meighan said. “We’ve done the work to mitigate your file being compromised.” For one thing, he said, the data is encrypted and stored on the TurboTax server, not on the phone. Within an hour, if the data is not saved or accessed, the application deletes it. The Internal Revenue Service also has an application for iPhones and androids, IRS2Go, that lets taxpayers check on the status of refunds and get tips. It can’t be used to actually file a return. A report by the Inspector General for Tax Administration said that for security reasons, taxpayers should only download the application from the Apple App store or the Android Market. IRS spokesman Ter r y Lemons said an update to the IRS app later this year will link to the agency’s YouTube videos and give taxpayer tips. “We’re never going to challenge Angry Birds for downloads but we got a pretty

good response last year,” he said. H&R Block and TurboTax also have iPad applications that enable taxpayers to file more complicated returns, similar to how they might do it using a home computer. More than 112 million tax returns were filed electronically last year, the IRS said, up 13.7 percent from the previous year. Electronic filing can speed the processing of your tax return. And, if you choose direct deposit, you’ll get your refund much more quickly, in as few as 10 days, the IRS says. The agency also cites an error rate of just 1 percent for electronically filed returns, compared with 20 percent for paper returns. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes under $57,000 can electronically file for free through the IRS website The agency has agreements with tax preparation companies to provide the service, and you can choose which one you would like to use. If your income is higher than that threshold, the

agency provides on its website Fillable Forms, which do basic math calculations and allow you to file electronically. No support is provided with the Fillable Forms, nor are state returns included. The IRS calls it “the simple electronic equivalent of paper forms.” Lemons said he expects the number of returns filed electronically to continue to rise. In a November report, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called on the IRS to improve the way it tracks performance and security issues in its new e-filing system, scheduled to be fully in place by 2013. “Since a growing number of Americans are filing their returns electronically, there is no room for error in IRS computer systems,” J. Russell George, the inspector general, said in a statement. “The IRS must be relentless in its pursuit of excellence with regard to all aspects of the Modernized e-file system.” The IRS responded that it addresses any security weaknesses immediately.

Key numbers to have when filing tax returns By The Associated Press

Some key numbers to know when filing your 2011 tax returns, according to the Internal Revenue Service: PERSONAL EXEMPTION: —Each personal or dependent exemption is worth $3,700. STANDARD DEDUCTION: —$11,600 for married couples filing a joint return, and qualifying widows and widowers. —$5,800 for singles and married individuals filing separate returns. —$8,500 for heads of household. —Taxpayers who are 65 or older or who are blind may be eligible for a higher standard deduction. ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX THRESHOLD: —$74,450 for a married couple filing a joint return, and qualifying widows and widowers. —$48,450 for singles and heads of household. —$37,225 for married individuals filing separately. Income tax brackets: —10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, 28 percent, 33 percent, 35 percent. EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT: To qualify income can be no greater than: —$43,998 ($49,078 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children —$40,964 ($46,044 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children —$36,052 ($41,132 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child —$13,660 ($18,740 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

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