Finances Feed

Back in mid-October, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that the wage base, that's the amount of each worker's earnings that are subject to the Social Security portion of payroll withholding, would increase to $128,700. This week, the SSA revised that number downward. The new amount of income from which Social Security taxes will be withheld is $128,400. The SSA says it made the adjustment after getting corrected W-2s later in October that weren't figured into the original 2018 wage base announcement. "Approximately 500,000 corrections for W-2s from 2016 resulted in changes for three items based on the national average... Read more →


It's an exciting day in political and financial circles, what with the unsealing of the first indictments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible Russian involvement in and influence of the 2016 presidential election. Tax geeks also are basking in part of the buzz since the official charges include some tax matters. Among the things that Paul J. Manafort Jr., former manager of Donald J. Trump's campaign, is accused of, per the indictment, is hiding his "overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income." Manafort also is alleged to used... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 13, 2017: Public and Congressional pressure, which included Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-Ohio) letter to the Treasury Department urging it to review and potentially bar Equifax from consideration in any new or renewed government contracts, has paid off for opponents of the credit reporting bureau deal. The IRS announced, per an Oct. 12 report by Politico, that it has temporarily suspended the $7.25 million, no-bid contract it awarded to Equifax to verify the identities of taxpayers when they create accounts on the tax agency's website. Driver's license data was among the personal info that identity thieves obtained in the... Read more →


Everyone knows the Monopoly Man, even if we don't know his name. His classy duds, compete with top hat, and bushy mustache make him immediately recognizable. For many of us, he and his board game were our introduction to high finance. Now, however, he's branched out. He made a real-life appearance this week at a Congressional hearing. Equifax visual protest: OK, it was someone dressed up like Rich Uncle Pennybags, which is the Monopoly Man's name. And the impersonator stole the show from former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who continued to make the Washington, D.C, rounds to take heat for... Read more →


Who's in the middle class will determine in large part whether that group of Americans gets Republican-promised middle class tax relief. One of the big debates about any tax reform is whether or how much it will benefit the middle class. That was a question in today's #TaxBuzzChat about the recently released Republican framework for tax reform. First, however, we need to decide what is and who is part of the United States middle class. There are several ways to define the middle class. Some say it is based on income. Other define it by lifestyle. Still others say middle... Read more →


Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith is grilled Oct. 3 about the credit company's security breach by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Click image to watch full hearing on YouTube) Human error, specifically one human's error, is why 145 million of us are worrying about what crooks will do with the data that was stolen earlier this year in a data breach of Equifax. Richard Smith, the credit reporting bureau's former CEO, in testimony before House Energy and Commerce Committee today blamed the initial failure to patch a known security risk on a specific individual. He did not... Read more →


It's International Podcast Day! Why are you reading (although thank you for stopping by)? You should be listening. That's why on this day celebrating the internet's audio offerings, this Shout Out Saturday goes to seven of my favorite financial podcasts. 1. Money Girl Laura Adams is the Money Girl of the title, offering her self-described "quick and dirty tips for a richer life." This one caught my ear because Adams' typically short and sweet 'casts often include comments about my favorite financial subject, taxes. Even better, her tips typically are pretty actionable, so as soon as you're through listening, you... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 26, 2017: Uh-oh, it looks like the prez has changed his mind, at least somewhat, regarding his tough "NO change" to 401(k)s stance (see Oct. 23 update below). On Oct. 25, Donald J. Trump reiterated his support for the workplace retirement accounts, but added that changes to the tax-deferred defined contribution plans are still on the table "and maybe we'll use it as negotiating." The prez's comments came after he also got some push-back from Congressional tax writers, including House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). UPDATE, Oct. 23, 2017: 45th president apparently is a big... Read more →


Bitcoin continues to confound financial and tax officials worldwide. BTC China, the country's first and largest digital currency exchange, announced Thursday, Sept. 14, that would stop trading by the end of the month. One reason apparently is the Chinese government ban instituted days earlier of fund-raising for new digital currencies. Although China embraced Bitcoin trading, the virtual currency's growth has increasingly worried the nation's regulators. One of the concerns was tax evasion. "Because it is traded anonymously and peer to peer, Bitcoin makes it easy for money laundering and tax evasion," Sheng Songcheng, an adviser to the People's Bank of... Read more →


Life is a carousel, at least for a while, for this youngster and her grandmother. Once play time is over, financially secure grandparents have some tax-favored ways they can help ftheir grandchildren. (Photo by Rob Bixby via Flickr Creative Commons) Happy Grandparents Day! If your pop-pop and mam-maw (insert your own personal and/or regional affectionate nicknames here) are still around, take some time to tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Most of the time, younger — and that's definitely a relative term — folk think of grandparents as ancient. In many cases, elderly grandparents (and parents) do... Read more →


Identity thieves got access to personal information on 143 million Americans by hacking into credit reporting bureau Equifax's data base in late July. If you have credit, you're screwed. Thanks Equifax. Equifax is one of three major companies that tracks the credit worthiness of American consumers. The other two are Experian and TransUnion. These repositories of how we pay, or don't, our bills are where lenders, landlords and even potential employers go for information before making decisions that affect our lives. Equifax also is where criminals went for all our personal data they need to steal our financial identities and... Read more →


Meg White via Giphy It's the first weekend of August and my life is bucking the "take the month off" trend. I've got work to do this Saturday. Plus, the hubby would like me to spend some time with him. But I don't want to short-change you, my loyal readers of the ol' blog, so I'm initiating a new feature I'm calling Shout Out Saturday or, depending on the weekend day I take off, Shout Out Sunday. Regardless of which weekend day it runs, the idea will be the same. Instead of me composing a new post, some weekends I'll... Read more →


With every story or study on retirement savings, I hope the news will be better. It usually isn’t. Overall, most of us aren’t saving enough — or any! — for our retirement. And things aren’t likely to get better. In fact, Uncle Sam is shutting down a program created just three years ago to encourage lower-income earners to save for retirement. The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on Friday, July 28, that it soon will wind down the myRA program. Broadening retirement savings: The name is short for “my retirement account” and was a play on IRA in an... Read more →


UPDATE, Sept. 18: The House of Representatives continues to make progress in efforts to end civil asset forfeitures. On Sept. 12, the chamber passed via voice vote an amendment to an appropriations bill that would bar bonuses for a section of Department of Justice (DOJ) employees until they rule on 255 civil cases referred to them by the Internal Revenue Service. This follows the Sept. 5 House passage, also by voice vote, of H.R. 1843, the Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through the Exploitation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Tools, or RESPECT, Act. The legislation, discussed below, would impose new restrictions... Read more →


The cost of college continues to simmer as an educational policy and legal issue, particularly when it comes to student loans. Democratic attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia on July 6 filed a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department to stop her from changing rules that erased the federal student loan debt of those who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently. Consumer groups also have joined the litigation list. The Obama Administration finalized the so-called borrower defense rules last October. They were scheduled to take effect on July 1. DeVos, however, froze... Read more →


The Financial Choice Act is a third of the way to becoming law. Want to take a guess as to what it might do? It obviously deals with money. But it's about giving more choices to financial institutions, not to consumers. The Financial Choice Act essentially seeks to roll back much of the Dodd-Frank Act, one of President Barack Obama's signature accomplishments. The current law, enacted in 2010 and whose full, official Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act moniker comes from its former U.S. Senate champions Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, was created to... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Education have a graduation gift for some students. The tax agency's income data retrieval tool that makes it easier to apply for federal financial college aid is once again operational for some applicants. This cool balloon was part of my neighbors' celebration of their son's graduation. Some Texas gusts, however, helped it take a post-graduation trip to our driveway. After snapping this photo (and Instagram video), I helped the light-headed fellow home. Since 2012, the IRS has made getting income information easier for students and their parents who are seeking financial help by... Read more →


Regardless of your thoughts, political or otherwise, when it comes to L'affaire Comey, most of us can relate to the recently fired FBI director. Like James Comey, we've at some point been out of job, either by our choice or because we, too, were let go. If that happens to you, here are five steps to take. And, of course, there are tax implications for each of the post-job moves. 1. File for unemployment. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, for example, a corporate downsizing, you should be eligible for unemployment. Depending on the circumstances,... Read more →


At midnight on Donald J. Trump's 99th day in the Oval Office, the federal government could shut down. That would be a public relations disaster for the 45th president, who's struggling to show that he and his administration can get things done as he promised in his 100-day contract with voters. "Saw this at my school's accounting career fair," wrote LittleNuclearReactor in a Reddit post during the last government shutdown Oct. 1-16, 2013. But it could be a bigger disaster for folks waiting on their federal tax refunds. Millions left waiting for tax cash: The Center for American Progress (CAP)... Read more →


Most high-income investors last were likely a little bummed last week when the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act failed. It didn't have anything to do with their personal opinions on Obamacare or health care in general. It meant that the Net Investment Income Tax, or NIIT, remains on the books. This 3.8 percent surtax is assessed on capital gains, dividends, interest, and other passive income earned by single investors making more than $200,000 a year or $250,000 if married filing jointly. It was one of the many ACA-related taxes that would have been repealed if the GOP... Read more →