Ouch! That pain in the pocketbook Phillips County taxpayers are feeling is coming from a shrinking paycheck. With the stroke of the pen at the 11th hour by President Obama and Congress the nation did not fall over the fiscal cliff thus avoiding an income tax hike. However, still all is not good news. There is a tax increase that will have an impact on all paychecks. In 2011 and 2012 the Social Security Payroll tax was reduced from an employee contribution of 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. The purpose was to put more money in people's pockets to stimulate spending. As of Jan. 1 the rate has reverted back to the higher level resulting in smaller paychecks for American workers. “If someone was fortunate enough to have received a pay raise recently, it's likely this Social Security tax increase will wipe out most of it,” said Mark Foster, director of education for Credit Counseling of Arkansas. “This will be an unpleasant surprise for may people who are already living on the financial edge and will need to act fast to adjust their budgets accordingly.” To help consumers find additional money to offset the tax hike, CCOA, headquartered in Fayetteville, suggested exploring these options: • Adjust withholding – Millions of Americans receive large income tax refunds each year when they could have extra money each month. Calculate the proper number of withholding allowances by using the worksheet at www.IRS.gov. • Refinance the mortgage – Take advantage of historically low rates to have a lower monthly mortgage payment. • Examine your spending – Carve $10 off 10 spending categories is a fairly painless way to find extra money. • Save on insurance premiums – Examine all of your policies and compare rates. Ask about ways to lower premiums and discounts for loyalty, good driving and bundling multiple policies. • Examine bank statements – Don't continue to pay for things no longer needed just because they are set up as auto-pay. Avoid unnecessary charges by not using out-of-network ATMS. Negotiate with financial institutions for lower fees or change banks. • Earn extra income – Work a few extra hours, get a part-time job, even if it is only temporary, to help you get financially stable. Free budget and credit counseling services are available through CCOA by calling (800) 889-49-16 or go online to www.CCOAcares.com. CCOA is an Arkansas-based, non-profit organization supported by grants. It provides free financial seminars, free and confidential counseling on budgeting, credit, home buying and delinquencies. It is a debt management program.