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    Families must file a 2020 tax return to get the new $3,000 child tax credit

    lisegagne | E+ | Getty ImagesMillions of families, with children ages 17 and younger, will soon start receiving hundreds of dollars each month as part of a new, expanded tax credit in the American Rescue Plan.To ensure their families receive the payment, parents need do one thing: file a 2020 tax return.”Families must file a 2020 tax return, or the IRS will not have the information it needs to deliver this child tax credit,” said Elaine Maag, principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.The enhanced tax credit is part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law in March. It increases the annual benefit per child 17 and younger to $3,000 from $2,000 for 2021. It also gives an additional $600 benefit for children under the age of 6 for the 2021 tax year.The IRS plans to start sending monthly payments – which will be about $250 for children older than 6 and $300 for those younger than 6 – in July, Commissioner Charles Rettig said Tuesday. Those payments will continue through December, and families will claim the second half of the total credit when they file their 2021 tax returns in 2022.The full expanded benefit is available to all children 17 and under in families with 2020 adjusted gross income less than $75,000 for single parents and $150,000 for a married couple filing jointly.The enhanced credit begins to phase out for taxpayers that have higher income and ends for individuals earning $95,000 and married couples filing jointly making $170,000.Everyone should file a 2020 tax returnRight now, filing a tax return for 2020 is the only way to prove to the IRS that your child is eligible to receive the credit, meaning that all Americans with children should file a return regardless of income.”We need the return information,” said Rettig in a March hearing with the House Ways and Means Committee, citing programs such as the earned income tax credit and child tax credit.In addition to expanding the amount of money families will receive through the child tax credit, the American Rescue Plan also eliminates the minimum income necessary to be eligible for the CTC and makes it fully refundable.  It’s important to file a tax return for other reasons.Families may be eligible for credits beyond the child tax credit or could be due a refund from the IRS. In addition, filing a return is the only way to receive a previous economic impact payment that you were eligible for and didn’t get.More from Invest in You:Prevent tax return anxiety by following these stepsNew $3,000 child tax credit to start payments in July, IRS saysThese unlucky taxpayers must still pay up by April 15To be sure, things could change going forward. The IRS is working on implementing and launching a portal for the enhanced child tax credit that could potentially include a way to add new applicants, said Maag. She added, however, that currently no legislation has been put forward advocating for this.That means Americans with children aged 17 and under should work to prepare their 2020 returns and file when they can. The IRS has a number of free programs to help Americans complete and file 2020 tax returns.Most taxpayers have until May 17 to file their returns as the IRS has extended the filing season.To see how much you could expect to receive, personal finance website Grow created a calculator that factors in your filing status, annual income and the number of dependents you have.SIGN UP: Money 101 is an 8-week learning course to financial freedom, delivered weekly to your inbox.CHECK OUT: How to make money with creative side hustles, from people who earn thousands on sites like Etsy and Twitch via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns. More

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    Billionaire-owned Sierra Nevada Corp. creating new space company to bet on a low-Earth orbit economy

    Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbitSource: Sierra Nevada CorporationAnother company is coming to the commercial space industry, but unlike many of the new start-ups capturing the imagination, this one already touts billions of dollars in business.And it could potentially be soon courting investors.Privately held Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is creating Sierra Space, an independent commercial space company with a portfolio that includes, among other things, a reusable space plane and a commercial space station — big bets under development that the new organizational structure is intended to accelerate.”Our space business is a unique example of our growth strategy. What started as a $40M acquisition has grown its revenue by 10x to $400M today, and will reach $4B within 5-10 years,” writes SNC Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen, in an internal company email circulated on Tuesday and viewed by CNBC.”To achieve this growth and even greater impact more quickly, today we are announcing our space business area will transition to become an independent, commercial space company… Sierra Space will remain part of the SNC family as a subsidiary and continue deep cooperation and synergy across customers, technologies, and many shared activities.”Sparks, Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corporation is 100% owned by husband and wife team, Fatih and Eren Ozmen, Turkish immigrants-turned-billionaires, who built once-struggling SNC into a multibillion-dollar defense and national security contractor. Over a decade ago they saw an opportunity to begin investing in space capabilities and technology, personally betting — in much the same way as other deep-pocketed visionaries like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson have done — that a new private sector-led space economy could one day lift off.’Vibrant low-Earth orbit’The Ozmen vision spans space transportation, destinations, and infrastructure, including in low earth orbit as that opens to commercialization.  “We envision a vibrant low-Earth orbit economy with fleets of Dream Chaser spaceplanes, a commercial space station, expandable LIFE habitats that can travel to the moon and Mars, and critical infrastructure like power generation, propulsion, and environmental systems,” states the internal email.Sierra Space will have the reusable Dream Chaser space plane that’s currently under development – a “space taxi” that, designed in part after the Space Shuttle, will be able to land on any airport runway in the world capable of supporting a Boeing 737 aircraft.  Dream Chaser, which was designed with capabilities to carry people and goods, is currently contracted with NASA to conduct six cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station through 2024. Its maiden flight for NASA is expected late next year.SNC also recently unveiled its commercial space station, an integrated, free-flying prototype for which testing will soon commence at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The station is comprised of inflatable LIFE habitats that the company has designed for long-duration stays in space, and it is expected to compete for NASA funding in the agency’s recently unveiled Commercial LEO Destinations (CLD) project.In all, SNC’s space portfolio totals $3 billion currently in active contracts.Space investing boomThe creation of Sierra Space comes as commercial space efforts ramp throughout the industry more broadly, as more rocket companies reach orbit, space tourism plans proliferate, and the Biden administration proposes a six percent budget increase for NASA in fiscal 2022.Investors, too, have been awakening to the sector in a significant way. A growing number of space start-ups have been striking deals to go public via special purpose acquisition companies and Cathie Wood’s new Ark Space Exploration & Innovation ETF is on pace to be one of the most successful fund launches ever.While the company email does not address it, the new structure could create more flexibility if capital were to be raised. It is currently unclear whether and how the Ozmens will court outside investment, but they signaled openness to the possibility in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on Street” last December. “We are open minded because we see that bringing in capital is going to allow us to scale up significantly and accelerate our growth,” Eren told CNBC at the time.”We have this vision…we may get there sooner than later…if we leverage some of the capital markets. There is that excitement that one cannot ignore, whether SPACs, I mean valuations are top levels, investment is record levels,” added Fatih, who is CEO of SNC, during that same interview.Tuesday’s internal email says the SNC workforce will learn more in coming weeks and months about the steps being taken to transition the space business. It will likely take several months for the new Sierra Space company to truly be operating independently. More

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    Credit Suisse is still unloading shares of Discovery from Archegos

    In this articleCIKCredit Suisse is still unraveling its positions from the blow up of Archegos Capital Management, traders told CNBC’s David Faber, putting more pressure on a beaten-down media stock.The investment bank was shopping blocks of different classes of Discovery stock on Tuesday, Faber reported. Discovery was one of the stocks that fell sharply in late March when the family office run by hedge fund veteran Bill Hwang failed to meet its margin call. Discovery’s class A shares were down more than 4% in extended trading.Discovery, along with fellow legacy media player ViacomCBS, saw its stock rise rapidly in the first few months of the year, apparently bid upward by the highly levered Archegos. Discovery’s class A stock rose from $30 per share at the end of December to $77 per share in mid-March before deflating. They closed at $40.38 on Tuesday.Credit Suisse was one of the banks hit hardest by Archegos’ risky trading. The bank reported a charge of $4.7 billion in losses from the trades and announced that two of its C-suite executives were stepping down.Credit Suisse and other Wall Street banks will sell swap positions to hedge funds and family offices, allowing the clients to gain exposure to a stock even though the bank technically owns the shares. When the stock declines and the fund fails to meet its obligations, the bank can be stuck with the losses on the shares.Enjoyed this article?For exclusive stock picks, investment ideas and CNBC global livestreamSign up for CNBC ProStart your free trial now More

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    Pressure mounts for Biden to forgive student debt

    Alex Wong | Getty Images News | Getty ImagesWhile the latest Covid stimulus package and a new massive infrastructure bill are the main topics of conversation in Washington of late, President Joe Biden continues to be under mounting pressure to take action on student loan forgiveness, too.Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., held a hearing Tuesday afternoon on the burden of student loan debt and urged Biden to cancel the loans as soon as possible.”America is facing a student loan time bomb that, when it explodes, could throw millions of families over a financial cliff,” Warren said. “The average borrower will have to start paying nearly $400 a month to the government instead of spending that money out in the economy.”Warren also discussed the racial inequities of student debt, pointing out that the median Black borrower still owes 95% of the original amount they borrowed 20 years after taking out the loans. The median White borrower, meanwhile, owes just 6% of the original amount they borrowed two decades later.”This is the single most powerful executive action President Biden could take to advance racial equity and give everyone in America a chance to build a future,” Warren said.More from Personal Finance:More colleges make Covid vaccines mandatoryNew college grad job outlook looks promisingUnder Biden, free college could become a realityAlso on Tuesday, more than 415 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Psychological Association and the Consumer Federation of America, wrote a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris calling on the White House to use executive authority “to cancel federal student debt immediately.””Before the Covid-19 public health crisis began, student debt was already a drag on the national economy, weighing heaviest on Black and Latinx communities, as well as women,” the organizations wrote.”Administrative debt cancellation will deliver real progress on your racial equity, economic recovery, and Covid-19 relief campaign priorities.”The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, and other Democratic legislators have also called on the White House to forgive $50,000 in student debt for all borrowers by executive action.”You don’t need Congress,” Schumer has said. “All you need is the flick of a pen.”On the campaign trail, Biden said he supported $10,000 in student loan forgiveness, but he is under mounting pressure from members of his own party, advocates and borrowers to go further by canceling $50,000 per person and to do so through executive action.White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested recently that the administration hadn’t ruled out the possibility of forgiving the debt without Congress. On his first day in office, Biden extended a pause on payments for federal student loan borrowers that has been in effect since March until this coming September.Zoom In IconArrows pointing outwardsAnd Biden has asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to prepare a report on the president’s legal authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower. The findings of that memo are yet to be released publicly.Critics of student loan forgiveness argue that it wouldn’t significantly stimulate the economy since college graduates tend to be higher earners who would likely redirect their monthly payments to savings rather than additional spending. Others say it would be unfair to those who’ve already paid off their student debt or never took out loans, and would send the message that it’s OK for people to ditch their debts.Advocates say that borrowers were already struggling before the public health crisis — with more than 1 in 4 borrowers in delinquency or default — and that after a year of record-high unemployment levels, that pain has only worsened.  The vast majority — or around 90% — of federal student loan borrowers have taken advantage of the government’s option to pause their monthly payments during the coronavirus pandemic, data shows. And in a recent Pew survey, 6 in 10 borrowers said it would be difficult for them to start repaying their student loans again in the coming month. Proponents also point out that it’s people of color bearing the brunt of the student loan crisis, and it’s also Black and Latino Americans who’ve suffered most from the coronavirus pandemic. An aide to Sen. Warren said canceling student debt would make the biggest strides toward narrowing the racial wealth gap since the civil rights movement.One survey found that 58% of registered voters are in support of student loan forgiveness, and a Change.org petition calling on the president to cancel student debt has now garnered close to 1 million signatures.How would student loan forgiveness impact you? If you’re willing to share your story, please email me at annie.nova@nbcuni.com More

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    New $3,000 child tax credit to start payments in July, IRS says

    kate_sept2004 | E+ | Getty ImagesThere’s good news for American families.The IRS plans to begin sending monthly payments from the new $3,000 child tax credit in July, Commissioner Charles Rettig said Tuesday during a hearing with the Senate Finance Committee.The new and significantly expanded child tax credit was included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. Under the law, families will receive a $3,000 annual benefit per child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 per child under the age of 6 for the 2021 tax year.Just a few weeks ago, Rettig testified that the IRS wasn’t sure it would be able to begin sending payments to families in July and that the checks might not be on a monthly basis at first.He said that the agency was overwhelmed with the extended tax filing season, which was moved to May 17 from April 15 for individuals, and thus had less time and resources to devote to implementing and launching a portal for the child tax credit.But on Tuesday, when Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio and ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, asked Rettig if the IRS would be ready to start monthly child tax credit payments in July, he had a simple answer.”We are,” Rettig said. “If we end up not being on track for some unforeseen situation we will advise you and the committee.”$300 per month for children under sixThe full credit is available to individuals who have children and adjusted gross income of less than $75,000, or $150,000 for a married couple filing jointly. The extra benefit will phase out for taxpayers who make more money, and cease for individuals earning $95,000 and married couples earning $170,000 filing jointly.Taxpayers that make more than that will still be eligible for the regular child tax credit, which is $2,000 per child under age 17 for families making less than $200,000 annually, or $400,000 for married couples.”It’s trying to put the largest benefit in the pockets of the lowest income families,” said Elaine Maag, principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, of the credit.The expanded credit is scheduled to be disbursed to families on a monthly basis beginning in July and will continue through December 2021. The monthly amounts generally will be $250 for older children and $300 for children under the age of six. Families will claim the remaining half of the credit when they file their 2021 income tax return in 2022.There is no limit on the number of children in a family that can receive the credit, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements around age and income.To receive the credit, families with children must file a 2020 tax return, according to Rettig. If a family doesn’t file a 2020 return, the agency will not have the information it needs to deliver the credit.”The safe path is to get a tax return in now,” said Maag.It isn’t surprising that the IRS has been working hard to deliver this benefit on time, but the true test will be in July, she said.”Hopefully he’s right that they believe they can deliver a correct credit starting in July, but if not they’ll do the best they can and maybe deliver it a little bit later,” she said.More from Invest in You:How much to expect to get from Social Security if you make $40,000’Catch Me If You Can’ con artist says this scam is making a comebackPrevent tax return anxiety by following these stepsThe importance of the CTCThe child tax credit is a major component of the plan to lift millions of children out of poverty. A family of four making less than $150,000 could see more than $14,000 in pandemic relief this year from the expanded child tax credit and $1,400 stimulus checks to both adults and children.About 83 million children live in households that would benefit from the expansion of the child tax credit, according to a study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In addition, the poorest 20% of families would see income increase by more than 37% during the year that the policy is in place.However, one criticism is that it only expands the credit for one year. After 2021, the expanded credit will cease, and families will see a smaller boost to their income unless further legislation is passed to continue or build upon the new rules.To see how much you could expect to receive, personal finance website Grow created a calculator that factors in your filing status, annual income and the number of dependents you have.SIGN UP: Money 101 is an 8-week learning course to financial freedom, delivered weekly to your inbox.CHECK OUT: How to make money with creative side hustles, from people who earn thousands on sites like Etsy and Twitch via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns. More

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    $1,400 stimulus checks can be garnished for unpaid debts. Some states are working to prevent that

    ljubaphoto | E+ | Getty ImagesNew $1,400 stimulus checks are aimed at helping millions of Americans weather the financial difficulties from the Covid-19 pandemic.Yet the legislation that authorized those payments has one big caveat: The funds could be garnished for overdue unpaid debts.That goes for private debts, such as medical bills or credit card debts, that are subject to a court order.The American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed through a process called budget reconciliation, did not protect the stimulus checks from garnishment.More from Personal Finance:Stimulus check less than expected? How the IRS will let you knowHow to handle an inherited 401(k) or IRAPeople weigh ‘revenge spending’ with $1,400 stimulus checkDemocratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, have put forth a proposal to protect the stimulus payments from private debt collectors.But efforts to advance that bill were shut down by Senate Republicans last month.”Sen. Brown will continue to look for ways to ensure any federal payments go to American families and not to debt collectors,” the lawmaker’s office said.In the meantime, some states have stepped up to protect the payments. The efforts are similar to those made last year, when the first $1,200 stimulus checks also were subject to garnishment. (The $600 stimulus checks that were approved by Congress in December were generally exempt.)Here’s a working list of states that have taken action to date.ColoradoPrevious stimulus checks were protected from garnishment by the Colorado legislature.However, this does not apply to the new $1,400 stimulus checks.”We are currently working on another bill to increase the general protections for garnishments which would help to protect new stimulus checks,” said Lawrence Pacheco, director of communications at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.MassachusettsMassachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued guidance in March that made the $1,400 stimulus checks exempt from garnishment or seizure under state law.”These stimulus payments must go directly to help struggling people and families pay for housing, food, utilities and other basic needs, and not into the hands of debt collectors,” Healey said in a statement.The guidance, however, does not apply to actions by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, including those related to past due child support.MinnesotaIn January, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, amended and extended an executive order that classifies the money as “government assistance based on need,” which is still in effect.The stimulus funds are exempt from collection for at least six months after they are received, according to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.NebraskaNebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson issued an announcement in March clarifying that the $1,400 stimulus checks may be exempt from garnishment, attachment or execution for some low-income individuals.”Nebraska law exempts certain income and property from execution and attachment by creditors and debt collectors,” the announcement states. “The purpose of these exemptions is to ensure individuals have enough income and property to provide for basic necessities like housing, food, and utilities.”New JerseyNew Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Democrat, announced in March that certain financial institutions in the state had agreed to protect the $1,400 checks from getting taken.”We want residents who have received their federal stimulus funds to be able to put it to use as they deem necessary,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am pleased that 50 banks and credit unions have signed on to our agreement to protect these federal payments being received by New Jerseyans from being garnished for past debts or overdrawn accounts.” The protection lasts for at least 30 days once the funds are deposited in a consumer’s account.New YorkNew York Attorney General Letitia James issued guidance in March to prevent debt collectors from seizing the $1,400 payments.”This official guidance makes clear that banks and debt collectors cannot freeze or seize stimulus funds that are intended for New Yorkers, especially those most in need during this time,” James said, in a statement. “My office remains committed to protecting New Yorkers’ rights, and ensuring that any institution that violates this guidance will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”In addition to garnishment, the guidance also applies to setoffs, whereby money in accounts is used to pay debts owed to banks.However, the guidance does not apply to actions taken by New York State, such as efforts to collect past due child support.OregonOregon continues to protect stimulus checks from garnishment after the Oregon legislature passed a law in an emergency session, according to a spokeswoman for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.In addition, the Oregon Child Support program will not garnish stimulus checks from financial institutions, the spokeswoman said.These payments are a lifeline for so many Rhode Island families who have been devastated by the pandemic. They belong to the recipients and are not fair game for debt collectors.Peter F. NeronhaRhode Island Attorney GeneralRhode IslandRhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha recently issued guidance indicating the $1,400 stimulus checks are protected from garnishment or seizure by debt collectors.”These payments are a lifeline for so many Rhode Island families who have been devastated by the pandemic,” Neronha said in a statement. “They belong to the recipients and are not fair game for debt collectors.”Moreover, the attorney general’s office will take action to enforce the law if a creditor attempts to seize a stimulus payment.VirginiaVirginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring last week announced an amendment to a law to protect the $1,400 stimulus checks from debt collectors.The law was initially passed last year to protect the $1,200 CARES Act payments from garnishment.The amendment “ensures that Virginians are able to keep the entirety of their federal stimulus payments, protecting that money from debt collectors and creditors,” according to the announcement.WashingtonIn March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, updated a proclamation on consumer debt garnishments with new language to include “federal payments of any kind issued in response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” which applies to the $1,400 stimulus payments.”Your stimulus check should help pay for necessities, such as food and rent,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “It should not be garnished to pay for medical bills.”If consumer debt collectors are going after your stimulus payment, contact my office.”This article may be updated as new information develops. Please check back for updates.Have you had difficulty getting your $1,400 stimulus check because of unpaid debts and are willing to share your story? Email lorie.konish@nbcuni.com. More

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    These unlucky taxpayers must still pay up by April 15

    PeopleImages | E+ | Getty ImagesSome taxpayers still need to send money to Uncle Sam this April, even though the IRS extended the tax-filing season to May 17.Those who make estimated tax payments are still on the hook for their first quarterly levy, which is due on the original tax filing deadline of April 15.That includes people who have income that is not subject to withholding, such as earnings from self-employment, interest, dividends, rent and alimony, according to the IRS.More from Invest in You:How much to expect to get from Social Security if you make $40,000’Catch Me If You Can’ con artist says this scam is making a comebackPrevent tax return anxiety by following these stepsThis mostly affects freelance and gig workers, as well as those with small businesses such as sole proprietors, partners and S-corporation shareholders — generally, anyone who doesn’t work for an employer that withholds taxes from their paycheck.The due date marks a change from 2020, when the IRS did push back the deadline for the first of four estimated tax payments to July 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the agency didn’t push back the three remaining payments — the second quarterly payment was also due on July 15, 2020.What you need to doTo avoid penalties for underpaying estimated taxes, people who owe more than $1,000 in tax after subtracting withholding and credits must pay the IRS at least 90% of the tax for the current year or 100% of the tax for the prior year, whichever is smaller.This tax is paid in four quarterly installments and can be sent to the IRS either online or with a check. For those who have consistent income throughout the year, these payments are generally equal but can be varied for those with uneven earnings.Because making estimated payments means taxpayers need to know their income from the last year, this group likely won’t be able to take advantage of the extended filing season.To calculate a quarterly estimated payment, taxpayers need to either project their income for the year or have their previous year’s income handy, as they’d have it for their tax return.”You still have to complete the 2020 return to get a bottom-line number to pretty much do an estimate,” said Rhonda Collins, director of tax content and government relations at the National Association of Tax Professionals. “So it’s still going to create a little bit of work for the taxpayer.”On top of that, small businesses and self-employed individuals paying estimated taxes have been hit particularly hard by the Covid pandemic and may be dealing with multiple issues that would complicate tax filing. Some may have loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan or a grant.”Conflating all of those things on top of each other, there is really no relief for those individuals,” said Barry Melancon, a certified public accountant, chartered global management accountant, and president and CEO of the American Institute of CPAs.There are penalties if you miss a paymentTo be sure, keeping the April 15 estimated tax deadline can help those who need to make the quarterly payments manage their cash flow throughout the year, said Sheneya Wilson, CPA and founder of Fola Financial in New York.Even if you do make estimated payments, you can calculate what you owe for April 15 and take advantage of the extension to file your tax return later, said Wilson.In addition, if you miss the first payment or underpay, the penalties are generally small amounts, according to Adam Markowitz, an enrolled agent with Howard L Markowitz PA CPA in Leesburg, Florida.If it doesn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world.Adam Markowitzenrolled agent, Howard L Markowitz PA CPA”If it doesn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world,” said Markowitz. “The penalty for missing the first quarter estimate as an example is generally an intangible amount of money that most taxpayers will not feel.”The penalty for underpayments in the first and second quarters of 2021 is 3% for most taxpayers and 5% for large corporate underpayments, according to the IRS.And, some individuals and businesses will get extra time to make the first quarter estimated payment. Taxpayers and businesses in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma have until June 15 to file their tax returns, make contributions to certain accounts and pay their first estimated tax payment.The deadlines were extended for those filers following severe winter storms that were declared a disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.SIGN UP: Money 101 is an 8-week learning course to financial freedom, delivered weekly to your inbox.CHECK OUT: Single mom earns $10,000/month on Outschool: ‘I would have never been able to make as much money as a regular teacher’ via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns. More

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    Getting in to college just got harder. Here's what to do if you are waitlisted

    If you were waitlisted at your dream college, join the club.The hardest application cycle to date left more students in limbo than ever before.In addition to the number of gap-year students who already accounted for as much as a quarter of next year’s freshman class, schools were “test optional” for the first time ever, which meant students didn’t need certain SAT or ACT scores in order to apply. That helped drive the surge in applications for fewer spots.Heightened uncertainty due to Covid also encouraged students to cast a wider net, resulting in a record number of applications at many top colleges and historically low acceptance rates as a result.”It’s almost a perfect storm,” said Hafeez Lakhani, president of New York-based Lakhani Coaching.Lower acceptance rates, longer waitlistsNow students are left with fewer options and only a few weeks to figure out their next move ahead of National College Decision Day on May 1, the deadline for high school seniors to choose which college they will attend. (Last year, the coronavirus crisis pushed many schools to extend the deadline until June 1.)At that point, they must cough up a non-refundable deposit to secure their seat at the school of their choice. And yet, many campuses remain closed to tours and visits, so students must also make these decisions sight-unseen.And perhaps the biggest problem is that many students have been waitlisted at their top picks.Waitlisted applicants have neither been outright rejected by a college nor have they been extended a formal offer of admission.Instead, they may be considered for a seat between now and September, depending on whether there’s sufficient space for them in the incoming class, among other factors.More from Personal Finance:More colleges make Covid vaccines mandatoryNew college grad job outlook looks promisingUnder Biden, free college could become a reality”For colleges, it’s a no-loss proposition,” said Eric Greenberg, president of Greenberg Educational Group, a New York-based consulting firm. “The more uncertainty about yield, the bigger the waitlist will be.”Waitlists are an easy way to protect yield — or the percent of students who choose to enroll after being admitted — which is an important statistic for schools.Nationwide, the average yield for freshmen at four-year colleges and universities fell to about 30% in the year before the pandemic, from closer to 40% a decade ago, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.”It’s so more challenging for all of us to predict our class sizes,” said Leslie Davidson, vice president for enrollment management at Beloit College in Wisconsin.Although Beloit received 3,300 applications for an incoming class with a target size of 260 students — and already received a record number of deposits as of the latest tally — the college could still be affected by waitlist activity at other places, Davidson said. When a student accepts an offer off the waitlist at another institution, they give up their spot elsewhere (and so on and so on).Colleges with lower acceptance rates place more students on the waitlist and ultimately accept fewer of them.Pre-pandemic, colleges granted spots to about 20% of waitlisted applicants, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, but that number falls to just 7% at the most selective colleges.With far fewer students choosing to defer and many of last year’s gap year students returning, the percentage will likely be even lower this year, Lakhani said, “I expect that waitlists will not be heavily utilized.”There are, however, ways to improve your odds.How to get off the waitlist and into classThe first thing seniors who were waitlisted should do is write a letter of continued interest to the college to let them know why they want to attend, experts say.”Pick one school that you would definitely go to and make a very, very clear statement: If given the spot, I would absolutely take it,” Lakhani advised.Then, provide an update that demonstrates what you could bring to the table. For example, if you took classes or completed a research project that helped solidify why that school is now an even better fit.Schools are waiting to hear what it is about the given student today that might be different from the same student a year ago.Eric Greenbergpresident of Greenberg Educational Group”Schools are waiting to hear what it is about the given student today that might be different from the same student a year ago,” Greenberg said.Think: “How your story has evolved since you applied,” Lakhani said.Finally, submit one more piece of information to help illustrate this new angle, such as an additional letter of recommendation or non-academic testimonial to your character story, Lakhani said.Make a back-up plan for your back-up planIn the meantime, “plans need to go ahead as if there’s no waitlist,” Greenberg said.Settle on a school among the list of acceptances, based on which is the best fit in terms of cost, academics, campus life and other factors.”That’s where it becomes imperative to see schools,” he added. “There seems to be a correlation between how well a person likes a school and how many times they’ve visited.”Also consider the amount of aid available. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, or from programs with limited funds. Students who were admitted in the first round tend to have first dibs on grants and other forms of aid.”As time goes on, it’s typically harder to get financial aid if they get off a waitlist,” said Greenberg. “There are less funds available at that point.”Covid has made paying for college harder, so affordability may be the most important consideration, after all.Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube. More