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Increase Your Income Tax Knowledge

Image courtesy of debspoons /

Image courtesy of debspoons /

If you find yourself stymied by the Income Tax Code (more power to you if you don’t!) and you’d like to get a better understanding of this very important area of your financial life, the IRS has many resources to help you improve your knowledge of taxes.  At the risk of sounding churlish, I suggest that if you’re an incurable insomniac these resources can also be used in lieu of the strongest over-the-counter sleep aid drug with satisfactory results and few (if any) side-effects.

The IRS recently published their Summertime Tax Tip 2013-21, which describes several of the resources available to help you gain a better understanding of income taxes.  The text of the Tip follows, in its entirety:

Explore a Quick and Simple Way of Understanding Taxes

If you’re a student or teacher, the summer months may be a nice break from class, but they’re also a good time to learn something new. A quick and simple way to learn about taxes is by using the IRS Understanding Taxes program.
The program is a free online tool designed in partnership with teachers for classroom use. The interactive tool is a great resource for middle, high school or community college students. However, anyone can use it to learn about the history, theory and application of taxes in the U.S.

Here are seven reasons why you should consider exploring the Understanding Taxes program:

1. Understanding Taxes makes learning about federal taxes easy, relevant and fun. It features 38 lessons that help students understand the American tax system. Best of all, it’s free!

2. The site map helps users quickly navigate through all parts of the program and skip to different lessons and interactive activities.

3. A series of tax tutorials guide students through the basics of tax preparation. Other features include a glossary of tax terms and a chance to test your knowledge through tax trivia. Interactive activities encourage students to apply their knowledge using real world simulations.

4. Understanding Taxes makes teaching taxes as easy as ABC:

  • Accessible (web-based)
  • Brings learning to life
  • Comprehensive

5. It’s easy to add to a school’s curriculum. Teachers can customize the program to fit their own personal style with lesson plans and activities for the classroom. They will also find links to state and national educational standards.
6. The program is available 24 hours a day. All you have to do is access the IRS website and type “Understanding Taxes” in the search box.

7. There are no registration or login requirements to access the program. That means people can take a break and return to a lesson at any time.

You can use the Understanding Taxes anytime during the year. The IRS usually updates the program each fall to reflect current tax law and new tax forms.

Additional IRS Resources:


  1. Sandra Flint says:

    I found information on the IRS website and advised my son to file a 2015 U.S. tax return. It looks like there are allowable exclusions to the income as well as deductions for housing expenses so maybe it won’t be as bad as we think, aside from the penalties and interest. He’s traveling here this summer so we plan to get it all straight by going to a local office. French taxation is brutal so I can’t imagine he would owe more than what he’s paid in there. Thanks for your help.

    1. jblankenship says:

      That sounds like a great plan of action. There may be reciprocal credits for taxes paid locally as well.


  2. Sandra Flint says:

    My son lives and works in Paris, France. He has been there since 2008. Someone told him recently that he should have been filing tax returns in the U.S. every year even though he has not had any earnings here since 2008. Is that true or has he been misinformed? If it is true, is it too late for him to file all the way back to 2008?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I’m not at all well-versed on this subject, but I do know that as a US citizen you are supposed to file a tax return even if you are living and working abroad. The best thing to do would be to contact the IRS to find out the correct steps to take. This is likely to trigger a significant tax bill including interest and penalties for not filing timely – but it’s probably better now than later, as the penalties and interest are only going to become larger over time.


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