– General Tips –
Tips, Downloads, Forms, etc.
– General Tips –
Tips, Downloads, Forms, etc.
Tips & Resources
What can you do to improve your score?
Credit scoring systems are complex and vary among creditors and insurance companies and for different types of credit and insurance. If one factor changes, your score may change— improvement generally depends on how that factor relates to others the system considers. Only the business using the system knows which action might improve your score under the particular model they use to evaluate your application.
Nevertheless, scoring models usually consider the following types of information in your credit report to help compute your credit score:
- Have you paid your bills on time? Count on payment history to be a significant factor. If your credit report indicates that you have paid bills late, had an account referred to collections or declared bankruptcy, your score likely will be affected negatively.
- Are you maxed out? Many scoring systems evaluate the amount of debt you have compared to your available credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, it’s likely to negatively affect your score.
- How long have you had credit? Generally, scoring systems consider your credit track record. An insufficient credit history may affect your score negatively, but factors like timely payments and low balances can offset that.
- Have you applied for new credit recently? Many scoring systems consider whether you have applied for credit recently by looking at “inquiries” on your credit report. Having applied for too many new accounts recently could have a negative effect on your score. Every inquiry isn’t counted: For example, inquiries by creditors who are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make “prescreened” credit offers are not considered liabilities.
- How many credit accounts do you have, and which kinds of accounts are they? Although having established credit accounts generally is considered a plus, too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your score. In addition, many scoring systems consider the type of credit accounts you have. For example, under some scoring models, loans from finance companies may have a negative effect on your credit score.
Scoring models may be based on more than the information in your credit report. For example, when you apply for a mortgage loan, the system may consider the amount of your down payment, your total debt, and your income, among other things.
Improving your score significantly likely will take some time, but it can be done. To improve your credit score under most systems, focus on paying your bills in a timely way, pay down outstanding balances, and stay away from new debt.
Source: Federal Trade Commission – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0152-credit-scores#improve
Six Exemptions to Paying Tax on Forgiven Debt
If you had debt forgiven, wiped out or negotiated down (by paying less than what you owed) last year, you may have breathed a sigh of relief. What you may not have been aware of, however, is that you generally are required to count that forgiven amount as income on your tax return.
Or are you? Before you write a check to the IRS — one you probably can ill afford — see if you qualify for one of these six exceptions to paying tax on forgiven debt:
1: Debts discharged in bankruptcy. If you filed for bankruptcy protection, do not report the cancelled debt as income.
Example: John was successfully sued for $500,000. He subsequently filed for bankruptcy and had the $500,000 debt, among other debts, cancelled. John does not pay tax on the cancelled debt.
2: Mortgage debt forgiven due to foreclosure. Thanks to the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which took effect in 2007, you probably do not have to pay tax on debt forgiven when you lost your home. Originally set to expire after the 2012 tax year, the act has been extended several times, most recently on January 18, 2018 covering the remainder of the 2018 year. This means that forgiven mortgage debt in from previous years through 2018 should qualify for this exclusion. The bill could still be fought by President Trump should he decide to not go along with it for whatever reason.
Example: Joe and Emily lost their home when their adjustable rate mortgage reset at a higher rate, Joe lost his job, and the value of their home dropped by one-third. Joe and Emily owed $380,000 on their home, but after expenses, the bank only realized $300,000 from the sale. The bank reported $80,000 as canceled debt, which prior to the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act would have been taxable income. Fortunately for Joe and Emily, the canceled mortgage debt was not considered taxable income.
For more details, see the U.S. Taxpayer Advocate Service’s publication, “Cancellation of debt.”
3: Debts cancelled when you were insolvent. This is the most sweeping exception because debt is generally is cancelled only when debtors are “insolvent” — IRS-speak for being broke. Take note, however, the exclusion applies only up to the amount by which you are insolvent.
Example: Trisha owed $30,000 in credit card debt, which she settled by paying $5,000. She received a Form 1099-C showing canceled debt income of $25,000 ($30,000 minus $5,000). She had no other debts. Her assets at the time were worth $2,000.
Canceled debt: $25,000
Total assets: $2,000
Insolvency amount: $23,000
Trisha reported $2,000 ($25,000 minus the $23,000 insolvency amount) as income on her tax return.
4: Student loans forgiven after you worked a period of time. If your student loans contain a loan forgiveness provision based on service in your field of work, do not include the cancelled debt as income. (Also, certain federal student loans that were discharged by the U.S. Education Department’s “Defence to Repayment” or “Closed School” discharge process are exempt. These loan discharge programs affect students at Corinthian Colleges and American Career Institutes Inc.)
Example: After Natalie finished her medical residency, she worked in an underserved area as a physician, as she agreed to under a loan forgiveness program. She does not, therefore, have to pay tax on the canceled student loans.
5: Forgiven interest that would have been deductible, such as interest on business debt. You do not have to pay tax on the portion of the debt due to interest if you could have deducted the interest if you had paid it. On the other hand, if you could not have deducted it — for example if it was interest on a personal credit card — you must pay taxes on all the forgiven debt, including the interest.
Example 1: You receive a Form 1099-C for forgiven debt on your business credit card, which you used only for your sole proprietorship business. The total canceled debt in box 2 on the form is $5,000 and the interest portion in box 3 is $2,000. Unless you qualify for any of the other exceptions, report the debt not including interest, or $3,000 ($5,000 minus $2,000), as income on the Schedule C for your business.
Example 2: The facts are the same as in the previous example, except it’s your personal department store card. The interest is not deductible when paid; therefore it does not qualify for the exception. Unless you qualify for any of the other exceptions, report $5,000 on Form 1040, line 21.
6: Cancellation of debt as a gift. If the cancellation of debt is a gift, it’s not income. Generally, the IRS will believe you if you say it is a gift and it’s between parties such as family members or friends. The IRS takes a dim view of taxpayers claiming that cancelled debt from banks, employers or anyone else with whom you have a strictly working relationship are “gifts.” Note: If more than $13,000 of debt is cancelled in one year, the gift giver has to file a gift tax return (although they almost certainly will not owe a tax). That should not affect you as the recipient.
Example: Roxy borrowed $6,000 from her dad while she was unemployed. She wrote up a promissory note for the debt. Now Dad says she doesn’t have to repay him after all. Roxy does not have to report the forgiven $6,000 debt as income. (She should, however, make sure the promissory note is marked as “paid.”)
Business, farm exclusions
In addition, you may not have to pay tax on cancelled debt if it was in connection with your farm, or if the debts were attached to business real estate and were forgiven when you owed more than the property was worth. See Cancellation of Debt in IRS Publication 225, Farmer’s Tax Guide or Business Income in IRS Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business for more information.
If you received a 1099-C form and you qualify for one of these exceptions, you still have to tell the IRS that you don’t have to include the forgiven debt as income and why. File Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, with your income tax form, and consider your old debt that much further behind you.
This form is for paying tax on forgiven debt. The IRS perceives the forgiven amount as income and is taxable as such.
If you received a 1099-C form and qualify for an exception, file this form informing the IRS that you have not included the forgiven debt as income and why.
Use this sample letter to draft your Letter of Dispute, in which you dispute errors on your credit report in an effort to have the Credit Bureaus remove them. LOOK HERE FOR TIPSYour letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information requesting that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Be sure to send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that it was received.
The Federal Trade Commission has put together a great do-it-yourself guide with step-by-step instructions on how to repair your credit score.
This WhitePaper is an in-depth look at the VantageScore 3.0 Credit Score model created by all 3 credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). LOOK HERE FOR TIPSIt covers its; performance, predictive strength, scoring consistency, who uses it, how it has changed, attributes, and much more. If you are looking to get a much better understanding of what is probably the most widely used credit scoring model, look no further as this WhitePaper was written by the people who created it.