Phishing. Phone scams. Identity theft. Unscrupulous tax preparers. Sound familiar? It should. Those illegal actions once again top the Internal Revenue Service's annual Dirty Dozen list of tax scams. Today's tax con artists are the modern day equivalent of yesteryear's snake oil salesmen, hustlers who convinced folks to buy products that could not possibly work as advertised. In all cases, past and present, the victims end up losing their money. ("The Snake Oil Salesman" by Morgan Weistling is available for purchase at Artifacts Gallery. The link to the artwork is not a paid endorsement.) As I noted back on Groundhog's... Read more →


Mother Nature has had it in for California this year. On Valentine's Day, the Trump Administration approved federal assistance for deadly storms that in early January buried the Sierra Nevada in snow and inundated low-lying towns along the Sacramento and Russian Rivers. Photo montage posted on Twitter by Mike Myers (‏@csiprints; along with @RickSforza @crimeshutterbug @BlodgettJohnM @BeatrizVNews @ivdailybulletin) of vehicles trapped in post-flood mudslide on Lone Pine/Highway 138 in Southern California. Three days later, the Golden State was hit again, this time by a major Pacific storm described by residents and meteorologists as one of the most powerful weather systems... Read more →


Senators and Representatives are headed back to their states and Congressional districts for the long President's Day weekend. Tucked into the bags that Republicans are taking home are some talking points on how they plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare. Image by Shawn Campbell via Flickr Creative Commons The Grand Old Party's policy paper says it aims to "provide relief from all the Obamacare tax increases." That's a big list. 4 targeted ACA taxes: The independent website Obamacare Facts lists 21 taxes, seven of which directly affected individuals. I've culled that individual... Read more →


Donald Trump is batting .500 for cabinet members who screwed up nanny tax reporting. This morning, the Senate narrowly confirmed Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina) to head the White House Office of Management and Budget. The vote was 51-49. At least Vice President Mike Pence didn't have to up to Capitol Hill to break a tie this time. Click image to watch the C-SPAN video of Mick Mulvaney's confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. His testimony apparently convinced just enough Senators to approve him on Feb. 16 for the White House budget post. Did Mulvaney's... Read more →


Today is a big day for you if you're expecting a federal tax refund. Feb. 15 is when the Internal Revenue Service can finally start issuing refunds to folks who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). Photo by eFile989 via Flickr But don't head to your bank just yet. Cleared, but not completed: The refund hold, mandated by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH, Act as, in part, a way to help stop tax identity theft and refund fraud, does officially end today. But from the get-go of this filing... Read more →


Donald J. Trump got an early, though not unexpected, Valentine's Day gift from the head of Congress' chief tax-writing committee. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) on Feb. 13 rejected a maneuver by a Democratic member of that committee to get a look at a decade's worth of Trump's 1040s. U.S. Rep Bill Pascrell addresses constituents during a visit to his New Jersey district. Pascrell wants to use an obscure tax code provision to gain Congressional review, and possible public release, of Donald Trump's tax returns. (Photo courtesy Pascrell's Office via Flickr) The full House tax-writing... Read more →


Have you finalized your Valentine's Day plans? Good for you, you fool for love! Hey, I'm not judging. I'm just not that much of a romantic. That's why Valentine's Day is not that big of a deal in our household. Except for an exchange of cards, with the hubby and I each giving the other one humorous and one sentimental Hallmark greeting, Feb. 14 is just another day. Yes, the length of our relationship is one reason why Cupid's big day is predictably boring every year. But it works for us. Plus, our lack of more elaborate romantic gestures means... Read more →


This post updated 10 p.m. CT, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Donald Trump has promised to deliver in a few weeks a tax plan that would "lower the overall tax burden on American businesses big league." The effusive description notwithstanding, some corporate tax reform would be welcome. It's long been accepted that the U.S. tax code needs work when it comes to business. The new Republican president and GOP-controlled House and Senate are promising business and individual tax reform. Analyses of the proposals so far, however, show that rich folks, personified in the character Jay Gatsby portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in... Read more →


Taxes are confusing anyway, but when a filing season has some special considerations, the misinformation increases. And with the availability of social media, the tax myths multiply. That's happening this year since refunds from some very specific tax returns are, by law, being held until the middle of February. Here are five tax refund myths the Internal Revenue Service says are making the rounds, along with the truth about the situation. Myth 1: All Refunds Are Delayed Yes, some refunds are delayed, but not every single one. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH, Act has a provision that... Read more →


In addition to a calculator to do your taxes, you also need a calendar. Given the myriad types of taxpayers out there, the Internal Revenue Service has a variety of due dates for their filings, be they tax returns or documents reporting tax data to Uncle Sam. Sometimes it's simply calendar quirks that produce filing deadline issues. That's the case again this fling season, especially for individual taxpayers. New laws, new tax deadlines: Other deadlines, however, are set by law. And now, some of those deadlines, particularly for business taxpayers, have changed this year. The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health... Read more →


One thing that's constant every tax filing season is that people who are expecting refunds file their returns early. Until this year. The number of tax returns filed, processed and refunds issued are all down dramatically this filing season. The impact of a required hold on some refunds also is affecting the average check amount, which at this point last year was $3,385 but is just $1,994 so far into 2017. Internal Revenue Service data so far this filing season, which officially started Jan. 23, shows a dramatic decrease in the number of tax returns the agency has received and... Read more →


You're married. You got married on Dec. 31. You're a parent. You take care of an aging parent. You're a single dad. You're divorced. You got divorced on Dec. 31. All of these personal situations can affect your tax filing status. So getting it right on your tax return is critical. Dad helps his children with their homework. If he's the only parent, he could have a couple of tax filing status choices depending on his personal situation. Why does filing status matter so much? It determines the amount of standard deduction you can claim. It is used to establish... Read more →


Oh, c'mon people! What is so hard about hiring a legal household worker and then paying the proper taxes for such help? Mother with a baby and toddler hauling, in her words, "a lot of crap." If she hires childcare help, she'll need to pay attention to nanny tax rules. (Photo by Mrs. Flinger via Flickr Creative Commons) However, some high-power folks with political aspirations apparently cannot get this right. Not even three weeks into the Trump Administration and we have a second nanny tax scofflaw. Puzder joins Mulvaney with household help issues: First there was the South Carolina Republican... Read more →


Did you, like the second-half resurgent New England Patriots, come up a winner yesterday thanks to some Super Bowl bets? The New England Patriots scored 31 unanswered points and stunned the Atlanta Falcons with an overtime Super Bowl LI win Sunday, Feb. 5, at NRG Stadium in Houston. With the victory, Tom Brady became the first quarterback to win five Super Bowl games. (Photo courtesy NFL.com) Uncle Sam congratulates and thanks you. Gambling winnings, whether thousands of dollars on a sports championship or a few bucks from a lottery scratch-off ticket, are taxable income. Some of the taxable winnings come... Read more →


Super Bowl LI will kick off in a few hours. Get your guacamole made and place your bets! I obviously don't need to encourage folks to chow down or gamble on Super Bowl Sunday. Every year, it's the single largest day for U.S. avocado consumption and for betting. Yes, I've wandered through the betting section of a couple of Las Vegas casinos, but usually confine my money losing to the one-armed bandits. Last year, according to the Nevada Gaming Commission, a record $132.5 million in total bets were placed on the Super Bowl. Remember, these were legal bets made in... Read more →


Sunday is a big day not just for football fans, but also food fans. Super Bowl party snacks rank right up there with the specially-created television commercials, crazy prop bets and the game's halftime show. These items I regularly purchase are, according to my local H.E.B. grocery store's labels, hecho en Mexico. Heck, a lot of people look forward to those events more than the annual NFL championship game itself. Literally loading up on guac: In fact, it's a major day for guacamole. "Guacamole has become one of the most popular Super Bowl snacks," Ramon Paz, spokesman for the Association... Read more →


Will we hear "Houston, we have a problem" during Sunday's Super Bowl LI in H-Town? Oddsmakers say yes, there is a good chance we will hear that NASA-related phrase (popularized by the movie Apollo 13, but not actually uttered during the real ill-fated 1970 mission) during the NFL championship game's live broadcast. Super Bowl LI kicks off at 6:30 ET/5:30 CT, Sunday, Feb. 5 from NRG Field in Houston, Texas. It will be broadcast on Fox. That's just one of the prop bets being wagered on Sunday's (Feb. 5) matchup between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. Total wagering... Read more →