No deal reached, as moderates search for shutdown solution

Restive Senate moderates in both parties searched for a solution to a partisan stalemate as they raced toward a late-night showdown vote and their last chance to reopen the federal government before hundreds of thousands of federal workers were forced to stay home Monday.

Continue Reading Below

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill said they were pursuing a deal to end the rare closure, prompted Friday by a messy tussle over immigration and spending. There were no indications that a firm agreement had been reached, or that leaders of either party or the White House were on board. A stopgap spending measure was slated for a vote on Monday after midnight, but Democrats have so far refused to go along with the temporary fix.

Republicans have appeared increasingly confident that Democrats were bearing the brunt of criticism for the shutdown and that they would ultimately buckle. The White House and GOP leadership said they would not negotiate with Democrats on immigration until the government is reopened.

There were indications Sunday that Democratic resolve was beginning to waver, with growing worries that a prolonged shutdown could prove to be an electoral headache for the party just as they have grown confident about their prospects in November.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, indicated that Republican leaders were skeptical that Democrats would budge. Asked whether he thought the government would be closed Monday, he said, “Right now, yes, I do.”

The discussions took place in behind closed doors with few outward signs of progress, as lawmakers took turns delivering animated speeches to near empty chambers to explain why the other party is to blame. Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer met off the Senate floor in the early evening, as many in quiet Capitol offices flipped their television screens to playoff football games.

Continue Reading Below

As lawmakers feuded, signs of the shutdown were evident at national parks and in some federal agencies. Social Security and most other safety-net programs were unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions continued, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay.

Lawmakers were mindful that the political stakes would soar Monday morning, when thousands of federal workers would be told to stay home or, in some cases, work without pay. What was still a weekend burst of Washington dysfunction could spiral into a broader crisis with political consequences in November’s midterm elections.

That threat prompted moderates to huddle for a second day Sunday in hopes of crafting a plan to reopen the government. The contours of that proposal were still taking shape Sunday evening. In exchange for Democratic votes on a three-week spending measure, the GOP leadership in the Senate would agree to address immigration policy and other pressing legislative matters in the coming weeks.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the potential deal would not secure an immediate vote on immigration tied to reopening the government, but lawmakers were seeking “an agreement that we would proceed to immigration.”

The approach found advocates in South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been trying to broker an immigration deal, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans who rejected an earlier short-term proposal. Lawmakers took the proposal to their leaders Sunday afternoon.

But shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, Graham said no deal had been reached by the moderate group because Democrats were not on board. “To my Democratic friends, don’t overplay your hand,” he told reporters. “A government shutdown is not a good way to get an outcome legislatively.”

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, indicated earlier Sunday that he would continue to lead a filibuster of the stopgap spending measure, while congressional Republicans appeared content to let the pressure build on the second day of the government shutdown. After Senate Democrats blocked a temporary government-wide funding bill Friday night, both parties engaged in furious finger-pointing.

Democrats, who initially dug in on a demand for legislation to protect about 700,000 immigrants who were brought illegally to the country as children, shifted to blame the shutdown on the incompetence of President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership. Republicans argued that Democrats shuttered the government over “illegal immigration” in a bid to gin up enthusiasm among their base.

“I think they miscalculated on the shutdown,” Cornyn said. “It’s very unpopular and they’re trying to find a way out of it.”

Absent a breakthrough, the vote early Monday will prove to be a test of unity and resolve among Democrats. Five Democrats from states won by Trump broke ranks in a vote Friday. The measure gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

Trump, who regularly disrupted negotiations in recent weeks, had been a relatively subdued player in the weekend debate. He has not appeared in public since Friday afternoon. The White House said he was in regular contact with Republican leaders, but he has not reached out to any Democrats, a White House official said.

Sunday morning on Twitter, he called on the GOP-controlled Senate to consider deploying the “nuclear option” — changing Senate rules to end the filibuster — and reopen the government with a simple majority.

McConnell has dismissed that option, saying Republicans will welcome the filibuster when they return to being the Senate minority.

Democrats are facing intense pressure from their base to solve the issue over the young immigrants, and they are skeptical of Republicans’ credibility when offering to deal. Whether Trump would back the emerging plan or any later proposal on immigration is an open question. Even if the Senate voted on an immigration proposal, its prospects in the House would be grim.

Furthermore, Democrats view Trump as an infuriating bargaining partner, pointing chiefly to his failed 11th-hour talks with Schumer on Friday. The Democrat says Trump expressed support for a fix for the young immigrants in return for financing for Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — only to back off hours later. The White House says Schumer and the president never came to terms.

“How can you negotiate with the president under those circumstances where he agrees face to face to move forward with a certain path and then within two hours calls back and pulls the plug?” asked Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.


Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

The Latest: Government shutdown will continue into Monday

The Latest on the government shutdown (all times local):

Continue Reading Below

9:30 p.m.

The government shutdown will continue into Monday.

The Senate will vote at noon on Monday on whether to cut off a Democratic filibuster of legislation to end the government shutdown.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said there is still no agreement to pass the stopgap funding bill.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the vote after Schumer blocked a bid for an immediate vote Sunday night. McConnell said he intends to bring up free-standing immigration legislation in February.

Continue Reading Below

Democrats have blocked a House-passed temporary funding bill to reopen the government’s doors through Feb. 16. The pending Senate measure would last through Feb. 8.

A host of the chamber’s more pragmatic members are pressing to resolve the shutdown mess. Schumer said there have been talks throughout Sunday with McConnell.


4:30 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has spoken with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn on the second day of a government shutdown.

The White House put out a brief statement Sunday detailing the president’s activities, saying the administration was hard at work. Trump has also received updates from staff and has spoken to aides about the impact of the shutdown.

Chief of Staff John Kelly has spoken with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the director of legislative affairs, Marc Short, has spoken to Republican and Democratic members and staffers.


1:40 p.m.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing back against President Donald Trump’s calls to end Senate filibusters.

When filibusters of legislation are underway, it takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to halt them.

Republicans now control the chamber 51-49. But strong Democratic opposition and some defecting GOP senators have kept Republicans from getting the votes needed to end the shutdown — now in its second day.

McConnell has long defended the filibuster. He says Republicans will welcome it whenever they are returned to the Senate minority.

As the Senate began a rare Sunday session, the Kentucky Republican said: “I support that right from an institutional point of view.” But he also said, “The question is, when do you use it.”

Trump has made repeated calls this year to end that rule, and did it again Sunday in a tweet.


11:30 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says that if Democrats want to protect young immigrants in the country illegally, they should vote for a short-term spending bill.

The Wisconsin Republican says, “Open the government back up and then we’ll get back to negotiating.”

The federal government entered the second day of a shutdown Sunday.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Ryan says good-faith negotiations on an immigration deal are taking place, though Democrats take issue with that assessment.

As a citizen, Donald Trump criticized President Barack Obama during the 2013 government shutdown for failing to “lead” and getting everyone in the room.

Ryan says on the current shutdown, “you can’t blame Donald Trump for the Senate Democrats shutting down the government.”


10:05 a.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling on Republicans to “sit down and talk” with Democrats on immigration in an effort to reopen the government.

The former Democratic presidential candidate said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the reality is that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done.

He says, “What we should be doing is negotiating.”

Sanders maintains that government funding legislation must provide legal status for the roughly 700,000 young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

The White House has said it won’t negotiate on immigration until Democrats vote to reopen the government.

Sanders is unapologetic about his own criticism of Republicans for shutting down the government in 2013, saying President Barack Obama wasn’t going to repeal his health care law.


9:55 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is blasting Congress for playing politics with military pay by failing to keep the government open.

Pence told U.S. soldiers stationed near the Syrian border on Sunday: “You deserve better.” He says the soldiers and their families “shouldn’t have to worry about getting paid.”

Pence spoke to troops in the Middle East as Democrats and Republicans in Congress show few signs of progress on negotiations to end the government shutdown.

The vice president says President Donald Trump’s administration will not reopen negotiations “on illegal immigration” until Congress reopens the government and until soldiers and their families receive “the benefits and wages you’ve earned.”

Uniformed service members and law enforcement officers are among the essential government employees who will be working without pay until the federal government reopens.


9:50 a.m.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul is calling the shutdown blame game “ridiculous on both sides.”

The senator from Kentucky said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “It’s gamesmanship and it’s partisanship.”

Paul was among a handful of Republicans who voted with most Democrats against the House bill to keep the government open. He says he’s opposed to short-term fiscal bills.

Paul called on Republican leadership in both chambers of Congress to commit to a week of debate and a vote on immigration legislation in the next month, to win over Democratic votes to reopen the government.

But Democrats are insisting that long-term funding legislation include protections for roughly 700,000 young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children — not just a vote on their status.


9:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump says if the government shutdown drags on, Republicans should consider changing the rules in the Senate to make it easier to pass legislation without votes from Democrats.

But Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says that would mean the end of the Senate as the Founding Fathers envisioned it.

The shutdown is now in its second day. Lawmakers are set to return to work on Capitol Hill later Sunday but there’s no sign of a possible deal.

The Republican president is floating the idea of doing away with the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation and deny the minority party the chance to stall.

Senate Republicans now hold a 51-49 edge.

Durbin tells ABC’s “This Week” that “we have to acknowledge a respect for the minority.”


9:20 a.m.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney is defending himself from charges of hypocrisy in his attacks on Democrats over the government shutdown, given his own role at the center of the last fiscal clash in 2013.

Mulvaney said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union: “Everything that was in the bill Democrats support and have voted for previously.” He says, “This is pure politics.”

Mulvaney was a conservative member of the House in 2013 when a showdown over “Obamacare” funding led to the last shutdown.

Mulvaney reiterated Sunday that the administration won’t negotiate with Democrats on immigration or a longer-term spending bill until they vote to reopen the government.

He says, “They need to open the government tonight or tomorrow and then we can start talking.”


12:45 a.m.

Feuding Democrats and Republicans in Congress are trying to dodge blame for a paralyzing standoff over immigration and showing few signs of progress on negotiations needed to end a government shutdown.

The finger-pointing played out in both the House and Senate, where lawmakers were eager to show voters they were actively working for a solution — or at least actively making the case the other party was at fault. The scene highlighted political stakes for both parties in an election-year shutdown.

Democrats refused to provide votes needed to reopen government until they strike a deal with President Donald Trump protecting young immigrants from deportation, providing disaster relief and boosting spending for opioid treatment and other domestic programs.

The Senate planned a vote by early Monday on a spending extension.

What Will Strong Nerf Sales on Amazon Mean for Hasbro?

On this episode of Industry Focus: Technology, Dylan Lewis is joined by contributor Danny Vena to discuss Hasbro‘s (NASDAQ: HAS) call-out in‘s (NASDAQ: AMZN) holiday press release and what that could mean for the company’s financial results.

Continue Reading Below

A full transcript follows the video.

10 stocks we like better than Hasbro
When investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now… and Hasbro wasn’t one of them! That’s right — they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of January 2, 2018

Continue Reading Below

This video was recorded on Jan. 12, 2018.

Dylan Lewis: A company where maybe the impact is a little more questionable, Hasbro. This is one of the biggest companies in the toy and game space. We bring them up because the best-selling toy and game item in the United States per Amazon was the Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm blaster. This is a product, Danny, that I am extremely familiar with, because a lot of Fools wield this model around HQ. So, I’m used to being shot with this thing.

Danny Vena: I’m not surprised you would be a target.

Lewis: [laughs] You know, I don’t appreciate that. But, no, it’s true, it’s very true. People seem to love this. It’s a fairly simple little Nerf gun, it’s not one of those humongous rifle guns. I think they’re about $13 or something like that. You look at a company like Hasbro, and with this announcement, they’re a company that’s kind of in need of some good news.

Vena: Right. If you go back to the last quarter, the backdrop for all of the toy and game industry was the bankruptcy of Toys R Us and the amount of money like big players like Hasbro and Mattel had on the books with Toys R Us when they filed bankruptcy. There was some question whether or not these players would continue to supply Toys R Us with products going into the all-important holiday season. There were negotiations, they got those out of the way. But one of the things Hasbro management made a point to bring up was, there were other avenues where Hasbro sold toys. It was not limited to what was going to be sold at Toys R Us. This is just a good example of the other avenues that management was talking about. They sold a significant number of toys on Amazon, and one of their franchise products, the Nerf, was the biggest-selling toy on Amazon’s website.

Lewis: To look at this on a quarter-to-quarter basis and understanding what this news item might mean for company sales, this is more important from a broad strategy perspective than a distribution perspective long-term, than it will be for maybe the immediate results for this business as we look to their next earnings call. You mentioned before, this is one of their franchise brands, and Nerf falls into that category with other lines like My Little Pony, Transformers, Monopoly. Overall, that segment makes up just under 50% of the company’s top line. Nerf is a very strong performer in that segment. It’s posted double-digit growth, which has outpaced the 7% growth for the segment. But, because there are so many other brands in that portfolio, it’s not going to be big enough to dramatically move their overall business.

Vena: Again, this is one that’s probably not going to move the needle. Better as an indicator to look at, Hasbro was not necessarily held hostage to the situation that was going on at Toys R Us, and certainly they’re going to continue to grow whether or not they have the same type of growth that they would have seen if Toys R Us hadn’t had those problems. We’ll find that out when Hasbro releases their earnings. But in the meantime, it’s just an indicator that toys were still being sold over the holidays.

Lewis: A shocker. If you’re looking for a segment to watch with Hasbro, I would look at their Hasbro gaming segment. They’re posting 20% year-over-year growth. It’s on a much smaller base. I think they’re around $280 million in revenue as of the most recent quarter. That’s really not all that surprising. We look at what’s going on in the entertainment, toy, game space for younger kids, and it’s increasingly digital. It’s starting to look more and more like video games, mobile apps, things like that. The company is getting there. But I think it’s something that they need to make happen. It’s nice to see that this has some traction for them, because it seems to me like the age window for those classic toys is shrinking and getting smaller and smaller. Kids want to be on iPads, kids want to be on consoles and phones.

Vena: There are a lot of industries that are being disrupted by the onset of mobile devices. I think for Hasbro, they’re better positioned going forward than many of their industry competitors for several reasons. They do have some of the most well-known brands, and they’re working on ways for kids to interact with those brands. They have digital games for kids to download onto their devices. They also have used a lot of these brands, like Transformers, in the movie business, just to keep them front of mind with the public. Maybe some of them have been not as successful as others. Transformers is obviously the big one, My Little Pony is another one, where the studio has put out stuff that has resonated with the fans. You had some others that were flops. But, Hasbro has an integrated strategy for international sales, omni-channel sales, keeping the products in front of the public’s eyes with studio productions. I think they’re less going to be a victim of disruption than some of the other players, but that’s always something to keep in mind.

Lewis: Listeners, I hope no one lets Vince know that I stole a CG company for this last one that we’re talking about here with Hasbro.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Amazon, Hasbro, and Mattel. Dylan Lewis owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Hasbro. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 Ways to Take Money From Your 401(k) or IRA Without Paying a Penalty

In an ideal world, everyone would leave their retirement savings untouched until they retired. However, we live in the real world, and sometimes you need to dip into your nest egg early. In fact, nearly a third of Americans who participate in a 401(k) plan have taken money out at some point before retirement, according to a 2014 study from financial services firm TIAA-CREF.

Continue Reading Below

The problem is that taking money from your 401(k) or traditional IRA can be costly. The IRS imposes a 10% early distribution penalty on money you withdraw before you reach age 59 1/2, and you’re also subject to income taxes on the money you take out (unless you’re withdrawing from a Roth 401(k) account). For small withdrawals, these costs may not be too burdensome. But if you need tens of thousands of dollars, the penalty alone can drain your bank account.

However, there are ways to take money from your tax-advantaged savings account without facing a penalty. The easiest is to simply wait until you turn 59 1/2, but if you don’t have that kind of time, there are other options.

Why withdrawing from your retirement savings should be a last resort

First, it’s important to note that while you can withdraw your funds from a 401(k) or IRA penalty-free, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Even if you withdraw a relatively small amount, it can have a significant impact on your long-term savings goals.

For example, let’s say you currently have $50,000 in your 401(k), you’re contributing $100 per month, and you’re earning a 7% annual rate of return on your investments. Here’s how withdrawing $5,000 from your 401(k) would affect your savings over time, assuming you continued to contribute $100 per month:

Continue Reading Below

In other words, that $5,000 withdrawal would cost you nearly $40,000 over 30 years, and that’s not including any penalties or income taxes you may need to pay.

That being said, if you’ve weighed all your options and decided you need to withdraw money from your 401(k) or IRA, there are a few situations in which the penalty is waived. Keep in mind that only the penalty is waived — not the income tax. However, avoiding the 10% fee can soften the blow to your wallet.

1. Buying your first house

If you’re buying your first house, you can withdraw up to $10,000 for a down payment without paying the 10% penalty. Unfortunately, 401(k) withdrawals are not eligible for penalty-free withdrawals for homebuyers, but you can withdraw money from an IRA without facing any fees.

With an IRA withdrawal, the maximum lifetime withdrawal limit for homebuyers is $10,000, and while you don’t necessarily have to be a first-time homebuyer, you cannot have owned a home during the last two years. If you don’t have an IRA, you can roll over money from a 401(k) into an IRA to get around the penalty. But because you can’t roll over funds from your current employer, it will need to be a 401(k) from a former employer.

If that’s not an option for you, you can borrow from your 401(k) instead. You can take a loan of up to $50,000 or half of the vested balance of your 401(k), whichever is less (unless half of the vested account balance totals less than $10,000, in which case you can borrow up to $10,000). Most employers require that you pay the loan back within five years, and if you leave your job before the loan is paid off, you’ll likely need to pay it in full within 60 to 90 days of leaving. Finally, you will need to pay interest on the loan, but that money is deposited back into your account.

2. Paying for certain medical expenses

Medical bills are costly, and not everything is covered by insurance. Fortunately, if you’re faced with a high bill that insurance won’t cover, you can use some of your 401(k) or IRA funds to pay for it penalty-free.

There’s a catch to this, though: The penalty is only waived for expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income and aren’t covered by insurance. In addition, you have to make the withdrawal in the same year that the medical expenses were incurred to avoid paying the 10% penalty.

3. Paying for health insurance premiums

Even if you’re unemployed, you shouldn’t forgo health insurance. The average cost of a routine adult physical examination is about $200 without insurance, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and more expensive medical expenses, such as an emergency room visit or MRI, can cost thousands.

After you’ve been unemployed for at least 12 weeks, you’re eligible to withdraw 401(k) or IRA funds penalty-free to pay for health insurance premiums. If you have a spouse or dependents, you can use those withdrawals to pay insurance premiums for them as well.

4. Paying for college

As with buying a home, 401(k) withdrawals used for college expenses are subject to the 10% penalty fee. However, in an IRA, there’s no penalty on distributions for qualified higher-education costs.

You can withdraw the full amount of your qualifying higher-education expenses from an IRA. The money doesn’t just have to go toward your own college costs, either; it can also cover the expenses of your spouse, child, or grandchild. Qualifying expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, room and board, and more.

Taking money from your retirement fund should never be your first resort, but it’s a possibility if you have no other options. While you’ll need to work a little harder to catch up on your savings after making a withdrawal, avoiding the 10% penalty can help ensure those withdrawals won’t derail your retirement goals.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

What’s the Deadline to File Taxes in 2018?

Taxes have certainly been hogging the news lately, especially in light of the recent changes that were implemented for 2018. But before we focus our attention toward the current year’s taxes, let’s not forget the little matter of tackling our 2017 returns. As you’re probably aware, those returns are due in mid-April, though their exact due date might surprise you.

Continue Reading Below

Without further ado, the deadline to file a return for the 2017 tax year is April 17, 2018. Why not April 15, as usual? Because when the 15th falls on a Sunday, the due date for returns is pushed to the following Monday. But since that Monday is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington, D.C., the rest of the country gets an extra 24 hours of leeway.

That said, the IRS will begin accepting returns as early as January 29, so it pays to get your taxes in ahead of schedule. Doing so will help you avoid late-payment penalties if you owe money, and will also push up your refund date if the IRS owes you a chunk of cash.

Get a head start on your 2017 taxes

Each year, countless tax filers wait until the very last minute to start tackling their returns — so don’t be one of them this time around. Now that you’re aware of the April 17 deadline, you can take steps to gather your paperwork and receipts so that you’re prepared to file your return ahead of schedule.

What sort of information will you need to file your taxes? If you’re a salaried worker, you’ll need your W-2, which summarizes your wages and tax payments for the year. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need a 1099 from each company you worked for. Keep in mind that the requirement to issue a 1099 is waived for earnings under $600, so if you did small projects for a number of clients, you may not get anything in the mail — but you’re still obligated to report those earnings, nonetheless.

Continue Reading Below

In addition to the aforementioned forms, it also pays to gather information on the following well in advance of the April 17 deadline:

  • Interest income, dividend income, or capital gains you received in 2017.
  • Mortgage interest you paid last year.
  • Retirement plan contributions you made.
  • Healthcare costs you incurred.
  • Money or goods you donated to charity.
  • Childcare expenses you paid.

Whether you choose to itemize or claim the standard deduction on your 2017 taxes, you’ll need to report all investment income on your return. Furthermore, most of the above-listed data will be essential if you’re looking to itemize, so the more time you give yourself to compile it, the easier it will be to file your taxes.

Don’t procrastinate

Though April 17 might seem pretty far away, the tax-filing deadline has a way of sneaking up on people. And that could hurt you in a number of ways.

First, if you don’t leave yourself enough time to complete your return, you risk submitting one laden with errors. If this happens, your return might get audited, or outright rejected, and neither scenario is what you want.

Furthermore, if you find that you’ve underpaid your taxes for 2017, and therefore owe the IRS money, you could end up scrambling to come up with that cash if you wait until the last minute. Imagine you complete your return and realize you’re staring at a $1,200 tax bill. If you come upon that information on or around April 17 and don’t have the money in savings to cover that obligation, you’ll face late-payment penalties that can quickly add up. On the other hand, if you realize in, say, mid-February that you’re looking at an underpayment, you’ll have two solid months to scrounge up that cash, whether in the form of taking on extra shifts at work, or signing up for some freelance projects to cover your shortfall.

Another good reason not to procrastinate? If you’re due a refund, waiting until the last minute will only delay your cash. The IRS expects most refunds to go out within three weeks of receiving returns, provided you file electronically. Signing up for direct deposit could further expedite the process. This means that, in theory, you could be looking at your refund as early as February if you really get moving on your taxes. Wait until April 17, and you’re more likely to get your cash in May.

That said, if you’re claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit on your return, the soonest you can expect your refund is late February. That’s because the IRS is required to withhold refunds associated with these credits due to high levels of related fraud. But otherwise, the sooner you file, the sooner you can expect your cash.

Don’t miss the boat

If, despite knowing the tax-filing deadline well in advance, you still find yourself unprepared come April 17 of this year, you have the option to request a tax extension, which will buy you an extra six months to complete your return. An extension, however, won’t give you additional time to pay your tax bill if you owe money, so at the very least, you should have a rough estimate of what your return is going to look like by the time April 17 rolls around.

One final thing: Missing the April 17 deadline won’t just subject you to a late-filing penalty, but will also needlessly drag out the already-stressful process of filing a return in the first place. You’re better off getting your taxes over with in time and moving on with your life.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Geysers yes, Ellis Island no: Some US parks open, some not

Visitors could still ride snowmobiles and ski into Yellowstone National Park Saturday to marvel at the geysers and buffalo herds, despite the federal government shutdown.

Continue Reading Below

But across the country in New York, the nation’s most famous monuments to immigration — the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island — were closed.

The Interior Department had vowed to keep open as many parks, monuments and public lands as possible during the shutdown, which began at midnight Friday on the East Coast.

By mid-day Saturday, the pattern was spotty, and some visitors were frustrated.

More from FOX Business

“My initial reaction is, they really kind of screwed up our day. We had a great day planned,” said Dan O’Meara, a California firefighter who wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

“But the next thing is, you know — it’s troubling that the people we voted in are not doing the job that they’re supposed to be doing. So, it’s very frustrating,” he said.

Continue Reading Below

In Yellowstone, cross-country skier Carol Weaver was unhappy with lawmakers, even though the park was open for her and nine friends who planned a two-day visit.

Weaver, from Bozeman, Montana, worried about what would happen if the impasse is lengthy.

“This is our public land, and we should be able to use it any time we want,” she said. “Congress better get its act together. They’ve been so irresponsible the last year, as well as the White House.”

Yellowstone had 2 inches of fresh snow on Saturday and temperatures were in the teens. Visitor centers and other facilities run by the National Park Service were closed, but privately operated hotels, tour services and gift shops were open.

Xanterra Parks Resorts and other private companies that serve visitors at Yellowstone said they would groom the park’s snow-packed roads for up to a week to keep them open for snowmobiles and snow coaches — small buses with tank-like tracks.

In Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall — where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed — were closed.

Gaetana Dimauro of Adelaide, Australia, wasn’t aware of the government shutdown when she went to see the Liberty Bell.

“That’s bad though,” she said. “I never heard of that before.”

In Boston, the USS Constitution, the 220-year-old warship anchored at Charlestown Navy Yard, was open to visitors. But the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Bunker Hill was closed.

In New Mexico, parts of Bandelier National Monument’s cliff dwellings and fragile archaeological sites were off-limits to protect them from damage, but the entrance road and some trails were open.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Yosemite National Park in California were open, but few Park Service staff were available to help visitors.

A storm moving into Colorado Saturday was expected to drop up to 18 inches of snow, and Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said crews would not plow the roads.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston was closed, as were exhibits at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Elliott reported from Denver. Associated Press writers Paul Davenport in Phoenix; Anthony Izaguirre in Philadelphia; Robert Jablon in Los Angeles; Ken A. Miller in Oklahoma City; Bob Salsberg in Boston and Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.

Long shutdown could hurt economy, a short one just ‘a blip’

If the shutdown lasts just days or even a couple of weeks, the robust stock market that President Donald Trump has boasted about probably will emerge unscathed. A longer impasse, economists say, could rattle consumer and investor confidence, pulling stocks lower and dragging down the economy.

Continue Reading Below

Economists and investment advisers interviewed by The Associated Press generally didn’t foresee the shutdown that began Saturday lasting long enough to stifle the economy much. With pivotal elections in November, both parties would want to shield voters from any pain. Investors and consumers are feeling optimistic now based on the tax cut signed into law last month, and the economy is strong enough to power through a short shutdown.

But Randy Warren, CEO of Warren Financial Service, a Philadelphia-area investment advisory firm, said shutdown that drags on for six weeks or longer — an unimaginable scenario — could kill a bull market and discourage people from spending money. “These things start to pile up,” he said Saturday. “When you start to doubt the future, then you start to doubt investing.”

And that’s among the reasons Warren and others don’t see a lengthy stalemate.

“It seems unlikely at this point that it would be a four-week shutdown,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at Standard Poor’s. “It will hopefully be a blip.”

The Standard Poor’s 500 index and Nasdaq composite closed at record highs Friday. The Russell 2000 index, composed of smaller, more domestically-focused companies, climbed more than 1 percent and also finished at a record high.

Continue Reading Below

“Unless it meaningfully impacts the U.S. consumer and leads them to spend much less money, leading to some kind of major (economic) slowdown, it’s not a big deal,” said Sameer Samana, global equity and technical strategist for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

The economy could take a hit if national parks and monuments are closed or operations curtailed for a long period. Trips could be canceled, cutting vacation dollars that roll into communities near the parks. The Interior Department pledged to keep as many parks and public lands open as possible, but the pattern on Saturday was spotty. Some parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite were open with limited services, but the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia were closed.

After the 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that it trimmed an annualized 0.3 percent from growth during the final three months of that year. The reduced growth was mostly because federal employees worked fewer hours.

Leslie Preston, a senior economist at TD Bank, said the economy is currently “strong enough to withstand” a similarly sized hit because growth is projected to be nearly 2.5 percent in the January-March quarter.


Krisher reported from Detroit. AP Economics Writer Josh Boak in Washington and Markets Writer Marley Jay in New York contributed to this report.