Bankrate Taxes Blog Feed

Tax filing season is tax crime season, with yet another tax software company reporting that some of its customers' data apparently has been compromised. Computer hacking ID theft image by Don Hankins via Flickr TaxSlayer notified customers that it became aware on Jan. 13 that hackers had accessed some accounts. The Evans, Georgia-based company believes that the usernames and passwords used to get into around 8,800 accounts were taken from a third party vendor. "We have no evidence indicating that the technical security of TaxSlayer systems has been compromised," the company said in a letter to affected customers. This is... Read more →


Here in the United States, the income gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us is getting a lot of attention, thanks in large part to the Democratic presidential nominee race. Sen. Bernie Sanders has made the wealth gap a key part of his effort to dislodge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the front-runner spot. Image source: ZMEScience But the battle is waging far beyond the U.S. borders and the 2016 presidential campaign. Global inequity off the charts: There's also a global inequality crisis, says Oxfam in a new report, and it is reaching new extremes.... Read more →


Everybody loves a bargain, even when it comes to paying someone to prepare our taxes. But, say consumer watchdogs, too often taxpayers don't have a good way to comparison shop for a tax pro and find the one that provide them the best service for the price. "The price of preparing a tax return is often only disclosed to a consumer after the return is completed," according to the report "Public Views on Paid Tax Preparation," released on Jan. 20 by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The CFA says that mystery shopper tests have found tax prep fees that... Read more →


The buzz about the biggest U.S. lottery ever continues, as we wait for the rest of the Powerball winners to come forward. So far, just Jim and Lisa Robinson, the Tennessee ticket buyers, have claimed their portion of the $1.5 billion prize. Many lottery veterans and financial experts have questioned the couple's public acceptance of their millions (they're taking the lump sum payment), but what's done is done. Jim and Lisa Robinson (she's in the fuchsia jacket, with her husband to the left of her in this screenshot), America's newest lottery millionaires, talk about their good luck. Click image to... Read more →


What's the biggest hassle, aside from complex tax laws, that you face in trying to do your taxes? The National Taxpayer Advocate believes it's the Internal Revenue Service's increasing efforts to make most taxpayer interaction interactive. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson is required by law to include in her Annual Report to Congress a summary of at least 20 of the most serious problems that taxpayers face. Given how taxpayer troubles have increased over the years, be they from inappropriate or inept IRS actions or because the agency is understaffed and underfunded, it's no surprise that in her 2015 report,... Read more →


A recent report on how the rich are able to take advantage of the U.S. tax code to keep their bills lower has (re)generated a lot of talk about replacing our current system. That's easier said than done, but lots is still being said about the options. One of the more popular replacement proposals is a flat tax. As I noted last week at my other tax blog, several Republicans who want to be their party's 2016 presidential candidate support some sort of flat tax. Essentially, they want to scrap our current system employing seven progressive tax rates and enact... Read more →


The biggest hit on Broadway right now is an inventive musical about the United States' first Treasury Secretary. "Hamilton" actors, left to right, Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette, Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens, and the musical's writer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda as the titular Alexander Hamilton. (Photo via BroadwayBox.com) And on Friday, the tax extenders bill became law, including a new provision that gives a tax break to shows on the Great White Way. Coincidence? I think not. Tax help from "Hamilton?" Maybe: OK, I don't really think that Lin-Manuel Miranda's record-setting "Hamilton" is... Read more →


Congress is still working on a compromise to put the 50+ expired tax extenders back into the tax code, some permanently. The plan is to attach the extenders to the fiscal year 2016 omnibus federal spending bill that must be OK'ed by Dec. 16. Then Representatives and Senators can head out of Washington, D.C., for holiday celebrations back home. Before that happens, though, another bill that also has tax ramifications is likely to clear Congress. The House on Friday afternoon (Dec. 11) handily passed H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015. Also referred to as the... Read more →


Sin taxes are supposed to encourage help force people to break what are generally perceived as bad habits. One of the most common sin taxes is an added levy on cigarettes. It has long been argued, and shown in some studies, that the tax is effective in keeping young people from starting to smoke. They tend to have lower incomes, so a hefty tobacco tax makes the habit too expensive for them, especially when they consider other ways they could use the money that otherwise would turn to ash. Now it looks like cigarette taxes also can improve the health... Read more →


How are those Thanksgiving leftovers holding up? While you might be sick of the excess turkey, dressing and countless side dishes, too many people face the opposite problem. They don't have enough to eat every day. Food pantries and soup kitchens get a lot of attention during the holidays, and that's good. But they welcome help throughout the year. And some are getting it from nontraditional sources. Many hunters and the organizations that support them have charitable offshoots through which game meat is donated to help feed the hungry. A volunteer serves game meat at soup kitchen. Click image to... Read more →


Thanksgiving is next week. You know what that means. Tax filing-season is just around the corner. Before we all get lost in family gatherings and football and gift giving, the Internal Revenue Service wants to remind us that it's working on new ways to protect our tax data. It also wants us to know that we can help. Last week, the participants in what the IRS has named its Security Summit announced a new tax safety public awareness campaign: Taxes. Security. Together. "We all have a part to play in fighting identity theft," said Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen... Read more →


The Browns are in Pittsburgh today. That's good news for Cleveland tax officials. On this given Sunday, they don't have to worry about taxing visiting National Football League players. Cleveland officials are revising their jock tax system, through which they've collected money from athletes and entertainers who've come into town to perform over the years. The city lost a court battle over its jock tax methodology and could end up refunding, by one estimate, as much as $2.4 million to previously taxed NFL players. Before it was challenged, Cleveland had taken its tax portion from visiting pro footballers' pockets based... Read more →


A highway funding bill is finally moving through Congress. It was stalled for months following the Senate's approval this summer of a transportation bill, but yesterday (Nov. 5) the House approved its highway measure. The two bills must be reconciled by a conference committee. But at least there's some time to smooth out policy potholes. The Highway Trust Fund has money, thanks the latest in a series of short term funding measures, through Nov. 20. One fiscal provision, however, won't have to be hammered out. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill require that the Internal Revenue Service... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is among 13 federal offices that is using high-tech cell phone surveillance devices. As I noted over at Bankrate Taxes Blog, the ability of the federal tax collector to gather metadata from mobile phones has a lot of folks worried about just what data is being collected, from whom and how it is or will be used. Such concerns came up in a Senate Finance Committee's Oct. 27 hearing that was already on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's schedule. The session was arranged to discuss the Senate panel's report on how badly the IRS handled Tea Party... Read more →


I'm a big believer in lists. I can't grocery shop without my piece of paper detailing all the edibles the hubby and I need or want. Yes, I still buy things that don't make the list, but if I forget it, I always have to make another trip to pick up a critical comestible I forgot. Yes, that's my current grocery list on an Earned Income Tax Credit notepad I picked up at an IRS Nationwide Tax Forum. No judging, please, of our food choices. I also keep track of my story assignments via a computer spreadsheet, as well as... Read more →


Tax evasion is a global problem. Around the world, countries are struggling to make sure that their citizens are paying the taxes they owe. Here in the United States, we try both the stick (audits and even criminal prosecution in some cases) and the carrot (tax breaks) to encourage compliance. The Internal Revenue Service has sweetened the tax reporting pot, especially for those who are hiding their funds in out-of-country accounts. While many tax havens are in tropical locales, you can find places to hide money from the tax man all over the world. For some, the United States is... Read more →


I love that Subaru commercial where the little kid (he's 5!) imagines what it would be like to drive his dad's car. My favorite part is when he exasperatedly utters, "People." That's how I feel today after the Internal Revenue Service felt compelled to issue a warning about possible fake charity scams popping up in connection with the deadly flooding this month in South Carolina and neighboring states. People. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Crooks and con artists look for any hook they can to separate us from our money. It happened after the devastating Haitian earthquake. Criminals also targeted... Read more →


When Donald Trump finally released his tax plan on Sept. 28, he included a provision he says would encourage U.S. based-companies to companies to bring their overseas earnings -- and jobs and tax payments -- home. Companies nowadays operate, and pay taxes, well beyond the boundaries of the county in which they are headquartered. Image by Effervescent Me via Flickr. Trump's proposal for a one-time repatriation of corporate cash held abroad at a discounted 10 percent tax rate is nothing new. One of his GOP presidential nominee competitors, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, previously released his tax plan that calls... Read more →


The Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal has brought new attention to alternative fuel vehicles. Conservationists love the vehicles. So do automakers, who have embraced new technologies as a way to expand their markets. And governments, both at the federal and many state levels, have supported alternative fuel automotive options through tax breaks. The most popular tax break was the federal tax credit for hybrid vehicles. Now the energy saving fuel du jour is electricity. My concern about buying an electric car is finding a recharging station. That's not a problem for the owners of these electric cars charging along an Ontario,... Read more →


The ubiquitous ads for fantasy sports companies have attracted some unintended attention. Rep. Frank Pallone, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants that panel to explore exactly fantasy sports differ from gambling. It's a question that literally hits home for Pallone's constituents. The Democratic Congressman represents New Jersey, which has been fighting to make sports betting legal in the Garden State. Supporters of the effort, which was approved by state voters, is seen as another way to bring tourism and tax revenue to the state, particularly Atlantic City and the state's racetracks. Now, in a letter to... Read more →