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Tips for the Tax Filing Procrastinator

Here’s some good news for all you tax filing procrastinators out there: Tax Day has been pushed back three days this year.

No joke—because Emancipation Day is being observed on Friday, April 15 this year, Tax Day has been moved to the following Monday, April 18.

So what will you do with these three extra days? That depends on your level of procrastination, of course. Here are the three most important things to consider if you’re filing your taxes at the eleventh hour:

  1. Do you owe money to the IRS or does the IRS owe you a refund?

If you don’t owe any money to the state or Federal government, then the April 18 deadline doesn’t apply to you. Yes, you heard that right. You will not incur a late filing penalty on your taxes if you’re owed a refund, so take a deep breath and stop stressing out. BUT (and this is important for people prone to procrastination) the longer you wait to file your taxes, the longer it will take to receive your refund. On top of that, you run the risk of becoming a victim of tax fraud the longer you wait to file, which is why we suggest filing as soon as you can. (If you file your taxes early, a fraudster can’t do it before you.)

  1. File an extension / Ask for payment installment plan

If you do owe the IRS money, you will incur late filing penalties on that amount unless you file for an extension. Even if you file for an extension, you will incur late payment penalties unless you pay at least 90 percent of your tax liability by April 18. Luckily, the process is fairly easy—fill out Form 4868 online or by mail and your new deadline will automatically be extended to October 17. Also, if you file on time but don’t think you’ll be able to pay the owed balance by the original deadline, you can request a short-term extension to pay the balance due or request an installment payment plan. This process requires a request be made by the deadline (check to see if your state requires a separate extension), but will give you time to get your finances in order.

  1. Don’t rush

The worst thing to do is try to beat the deadline without filing for an extension. Chances are you’ll overlook critical deductions and credits that may lower the amount you owe or increase your refund. There are a slew of life events that can affect your tax situation (e.g., marriage, divorce, starting a business, having a baby, etc.) and it would be a shame to ignore them, especially when it means more money coming out of your pocket.

For more info on how to avoid penalties that come along with missed tax deadlines, visit our Block Talk blog. In order to prevent winning the two-time tax procrastinator award, check out this handy infographic to find out what forms you’ll need, along with a tax prep checklist for next year’s prompt filing.

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How The H&R Block Budget Challenge Is Helping Teachers Teach Financial Literacy—Straight From Teachers

Educators all over the country are using the H&R Block Budget Challenge to teach students important personal finance concepts. From how to manage a budget and properly saving for a 401k, students are learning how to be smart money managers through this simulation without the real life consequences. Don’t believe us? Hear it straight from teachers who have participated.*

“Budget Challenge is an excellent “formative” assessment tool that accurately assesses the students ability to manage their finances over a longer period of time.   It gets to the heart of their personal habits and personality traits when it comes to managing an account. I also use their scores as a jumping point in discussing credit scores and credit worthiness.” 

“It was well designed and allowed me to expose my student to Personal Finance concepts in a realistic, interactive and fun manner.”

“I learned the issues that seemed to give students the most problems. This allowed me to go more in depth on those topics in order to enhance student knowledge.”

“Both of our school principals have spent time in my classroom during the simulation. They enjoyed seeing the students’ work and how they progress. They also enjoyed how competitive they were with who was in first place in our room.” 

“School administrators have pushed for a required PF (personal finance) class at our school. They were excited about the BC (Budget Challenge) simulation when I brought it to their attention.” 

Get your class involved in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Find out more info about how to enroll here.

*All responses were anonymously gathered from the H&R Block Budget Challenge Fall 2015 Survey

Matt Tetreau

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Matt Tetreau

Hard work and long-term planning pay off when taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Don’t believe us? Just ask Matt Tetreau from St. Clair High School in Michigan who won a $20,000 scholarship. We spoke with him to learn more about how he was so successful!

Growing up, did you see a need for financial literacy and education among your classmates?

I really think that it’s valuable information, especially since next year many of us will have student loans. Many kids my age don’t really know too much about student loans or living on their own. That’s what inspired me to take Mrs. Volz’s class where we took the Budget Challenge.

Where did your previous financial education come from? Did you take any classes prior to Mrs. Volz’s?

No I didn’t. I didn’t ever really talk to my parents about money either. I’m not much of a spender. During the simulation, I learned almost everything I know though through the class or on my own.

Do you think that the simulation taught you the real world money skills that you need to be successful?

Absolutely. I feel like I can budget on my own now, whereas before I don’t know if I would have been able to manage.

What do you think was the recipe to your success that helped you win the scholarship?

I checked the Budget Challenge every day and made sure that my budget was balanced. I tried a bunch of different strategies and tried to find the strategy that would save me the most money on my budget.

How often did you tweak your budget throughout the simulation?

In the beginning, I planned it all out by how I thought it’d work out — but that didn’t work because unexpected things came up in the Budget Challenge where I had to make refinements. We had one unexpected event to deal with, and our credit card expenses were pretty unpredictable at times. We didn’t know how much we’d get charged for the event, so we had to account for that as well.

Did you work together with your classmates through the simulation?

I actually did work with some. It was really valuable working together and bouncing ideas off each other. Some of my classmates proposed strategies that I didn’t initially think of — and I came up with ways to play that helped others. I think that sharing of ideas among a few of my classmates was part of my success.

What did your parents think when you told them you were taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I told them about the simulation, and they were pretty into it as well. They were asking me what was going on and how I was doing.

How has winning this scholarship changed your post-graduation plans?

I always planned on going to college, but I didn’t plan how I would pay for it. So the scholarship definitely helps.

Where do you plan on going to college and using your scholarship?

I plan on going to Michigan or Grand Valley State and studying computer science. I want to probably be a computer programmer or similar type of job.

Would you recommend this simulation to other students? Why?

Going into this, I didn’t know much at all about budgeting. I learned so much information that will help me throughout my life. I honestly think that every high school student should participate in something like that or at least take a class related to it.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

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What Teachers Are Saying About the H&R Block Budget Challenge

We’ve wrapped up another semester of the H&R Block Budget Challenge and ushered in another batch of high schoolers who have mastered the art of personal finance. See what our winning teachers from last semester have to say about their classes’ participation and get involved in the next simulation by registering here!

  • The class stated they saw a real life connection to understanding the material. They have a competitive nature, and as they saw their ranking improve it drove them to work harder. Thank you again for this opportunity; it really does help students apply key concepts! –Erica Pavlik, Nequa Valley High School
  • My accounting class enjoyed learning how to manage their money in a “real-world” atmosphere, and they now feel better about doing it on their own. Also, they enjoyed the competition aspect of the H&R Block Budget Challenge, especially, when one of the students placed 24th! He was so heartbroken at missing a scholarship by two places, so we are going to have a huge pizza party! Thank you H&R Block for sponsoring and giving these students this great opportunity! – Chris Spurlock, Sikeston Career & Technology Center
  • I teach an Intro to Business class at a small school in rural Indiana. The students are very competitive and have a great sense of community. They loved seeing their team name on the leaderboard and their national ranking. I believe their success came from planning and checking and tweaking their spreadsheets throughout the challenge. – Cheri Jesionowski, Adams Central High School
  • Thank you for allowing my accounting students to participate in the Budget Challenge! This has been a super exciting event where learning has truly evolved. Personal finance knowledge is critical for young people to know, and there never seems to be enough time for students to fit these courses in their schedule. The students in this class were certainly happy they were a part of this. Attendance and class engagement were at an all-time high during the simulation. We wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. – Kim Rider, Kinder High School
  • I am a huge fan of what you are doing. I think participating in the Budget Challenge gives students the opportunity to learn money management techniques and deal with a variety of issues in a safe environment. – Jennifer Jordan, Madeira High School
  • The first thing the students wanted to do each day of class was log on to the Budget Challenge to check their rank and the class rank and then pay any bills due. It was a great experience. – Laura DePue, Fredonia Central High School
  • Budgeting is best learned through doing it. Creating a budget and paying bills is a difficult task to learn and can have detrimental consequences. I used to and will continue to use the simulation because it teaches students lessons in a way that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. – Sherry Brown, Guntersville High School
  • I loved the real world aspects of the simulation. It just can’t get better than having real invoices, real emails, real ‘accidents’, real penalties. – Neva Allen, Knob Noster High School
  • I REALLY enjoyed the simulation. I liked the quick email responses, the curve balls, the virtual reality of the simulation. – Lenny Briones, Michael E. DeBakey High School

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

How Important is Money to Teens? [INFOGRAPHIC]

How important is saving, spending and investing to teens? Here’s what we found out.HRBDS January-0204-02-01

Thanks to the Budget Challenge, these teens gained confidence in their financial literacy skills and ability to save. Maybe they can keep their smartphones after all!

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

(Photo provided by Amanda Volz)

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Ms. Amanda Volz

St. Clair High School teacher Amanda Volz knows a thing or two about what it takes to lead a class of money management masters. Not only did her class last year include H&R Block Budget Challenge grand prize winner Sean Lawrence, six of her students this year won scholarships, along with a $5,000 classroom grant. We caught up with her to find out how she keeps her students motivated in the program and why she’d recommend it to others.

You’ve had two straight years with high-performing students involved in the program. What’s your secret?

I’m fortunate enough to teach the inclusive personal finance class. My financial management class is year-long and we cover all the personal finance topics, so we talk about budgeting, credit, how to deal with mortgages, etc. So, this is content that I purposely tie to the simulation. My students are graded on the quizzes they take, and their participation is recorded so that’s definitely a positive for me that I’m teaching those exact concepts in my class.

How did you include the simulation in your curriculum?

This year I taught it as more of project-based learning format. Last year I did it as more of a culminating project using the concepts I teach. The Budget Challenge was a great support to the curriculum I already teach, and students were learning as they improved. My students were constantly asking questions as they progressed.

What were your students’ reactions when you told them they’d be participating in the program?

They were very into it and started making their budgets and talking to their parents. They knew at the beginning they had to make some really good decisions to hopefully win the scholarship. I know that 100 percent of my class found value in the simulation even though some of them may not have been into it as much as the other students in the Budget Challenge.

How did you motivate your students to participate in the simulation?

All of my kids that won scholarships this year were very engaged, so they didn’t get lazy at any point and used the budgeting tools that were provided by the Budget Challenge. They were strategic and worked together, bouncing ideas off each other, and reminding each other of certain things. I think having a grand-prize winner last year was a huge motivator for my classes this year to see that winning is a possibility for them. One of the ways I introduced the simulation this year was by showing footage of last year and how Sean Lawrence went on to win and I think that was really effective.

Did you get any feedback from your students’ parents?

I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from parents about how their son or daughter was really talking about these concepts at home with them. I think the Budget Challenge was increasing a lot of dialogue at home and a lot of good comments from parents about making personal finance fun. This program is game-based so it makes the process fun.

What did you find most rewarding when including the H&R Block Budget Challenge in your teaching?
I really like that students are taking exactly what they’re learning in my class and the simulation and applying it to their daily lives. I think that’s a huge reward. There’s never any question of “When am I ever going to use this?”

What’s your stance on financial courses in high schools? Do you think they should be required?

Most definitely. I think finance is a major part of everyone’s lives. These are household skills that help our economy. One of the most rewarding parts of teaching this is how kids see the value in all this information that they’re learning.

Would you recommend this program to other teachers?

I definitely recommend the program. I have not found another program that better simulates the money management concept. I think it’s great that everything happens in real time, too. It’s very hands-on and relevant. The game-based aspect of it makes it fun for the students and the scholarship money — that’s a life-changing amount of money for someone to win. It’s also available at no cost to teachers.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

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What Did South Lyon High School Students Learn from the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

Students from two classes at South Lyon High School in South Lyon, Mich., are part of the newest batch of money management masters thanks to the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Here are the top 5 things that each team learned by participating in the simulation!

Top 5 Things that the Lucid Lyons Team learned:

  1. That you must be very organized and have a strategy in order to properly manage your money. –Justin
  2. How important it is to keep extra money for unexpected expenditures and how big of an impact they can have on your budget. -Maia
  3. How to manage a budget in order to make sure I have enough money for bills and other expenses. –Kayla
  4. That it is very important to stay up-to-date on all of your bills because if you don’t, it’s very difficult to catch up. –Tony
  5. That I will probably go into debt when I’m older, and I need to focus on knowing when to pay my bills. –Aidan

Top 5 Things that the Liberated Lyons Team learned:

  1. Preparing me for the real world. I now know how to pay bills properly. -Charlie
  2. How important it is to manage my money, so I’ll be prepared for the real world. –Karissa
  3. When I get older, I will try not to have as much frivolous spending, like going out to dinner three times a week. –Spencer
  4. The importance of saving early for retirement. It’s never too early to start. –Brooke
  5. Creating and balancing my very own budget from money I earn. –Steve

 Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

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5 Reasons You Should Enroll Your Class in the H&R Block Budget Challenge

A new year has begun and the opportunity to register your class for the second semester of H&R Block Budget Challenge simulations is quickly coming to an end!

In case you haven’t already been made aware of all the useful benefits of the simulation, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t wait one more minute to register. 

  1. Flex those financial muscles

We recently conducted a survey among more than 1,000 13-17 year-old American teenagers and discovered that close to half of them said they aren’t “financially fit.” That’s a lot of teens insecure about their ability to manage their money and save for the future. You can help them build a solid foundation that will benefit them well into the future — and that is what teaching is all about.

  1. All hands on deck

The Budget Challenge is a successful teaching model because of its hands-on approach. Every one of your students will learn practical lessons on money management through the real-world simulation in the game. This goes way beyond pulling lessons from textbooks — this is the real deal.

  1. Real skills, not real consequences

Allowing teens to make mistakes takes the pressure off of trying to be perfect. Even though the Budget Challenge mimics the real world, it’s still only a simulation. That means there are no real penalties for financial blunders — only lessons learned.

  1. A fun change of pace

A lesson plan that deviates from the norm will usually get students interested. A lesson plan that involves competition with other students and classrooms will almost certainly get students excited about participating. A motivated student means happy teachers.

  1. Scholarships and grants

Above all else, the H&R Block Budget Challenge offers a total of $3 million in scholarships and grants: that breaks down to 60 opportunities for classroom grants up to $5,000; 132 opportunities for student scholarships of $20,000; and a grand prize scholarship of $100,000. How’s that for incentive? 

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

(Photo provided by Noah Westrick)

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Noah Westrick

St. Clair (Mich.) High School senior Noah Westrick is a personal finance whiz and now has a $20,000 scholarship to show for it through his participation in the H&R Block Budget Challenge! We spoke with him to learn more about what financial skills have made him real-world ready and how the scholarship changed his life.

Would you say your St. Clair classmates are financially savvy?

In many states, financial classes aren’t required, and I think they absolutely should be. I’ve learned so much, and I’m not even halfway through the year. I’d like to see education like this happen around the world. There are no negatives to it.

Did you have any prior financial education before taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I had nothing, pretty much. All I knew was anything that my family told me and anything I found out on my own. I went into this class where we took the H&R Block Budget Challenge to learn as much as I could about finances,and so far that’s helped me. 

When you were introduced to the H&R Block Budget Challenge, how interested were you in participating?

To be honest, at the beginning, I was ready to do it and thought it’d be a great way to learn. But I wasn’t as excited as I was halfway through when I saw my rank rose from 965 to 57 in one day. Then I started to really enjoy the simulation. Every day I’d wake up, and the first thing I’d do is check and see how I was doing. Near the end, it would be multiple times a day I’d log in to see if anything happened.

Did you talk to your family about what you learned throughout the simulation?

I remember at the beginning when I did the vendor selection I didn’t know what a deductible was, and I had to ask my dad about that.

How did you and your classmates encourage each other to participate?

Two of my best friends, who also won scholarships, all three of us talked all the time about the Budget Challenge and tried to make a strategy together. We did things like that throughout the entire simulation.

Did you enjoy participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

Yes! The H&R Block Budget Challenge taught me a lot, like how to use credit cards properly, what a 401K was, and how to write a check.

Do you think the H&R Block Budget Challenge has helped you become real-world ready?

Yes, I do. I feel like this has improved my real-world skills so much. I feel like this has taken years of hardship of me. I’ve learned so much about finances through the simulation. I loved it.

Where will you be continuing your education after high school graduation?

For my first two years I’m going to go to St. Clair Community College, then I’m going to transfer to probably Western Michigan University, and that’s when I’ll use my $20,000 scholarship.

Is it cool to be financially savvy as a teen?

I think yes, especially in St. Clair, because the winners have been congratulated by everyone. Now everyone wants to take the H&R Block Budget Challenge and win $20,000 too.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage your teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.