With apologies to Charles Dickens, it is the best and worst of times for soda taxes. News out of Washington State today is that Seattle's sweetened beverage tax raised about $1 million more than predicted in its first three months. Seattle's tax — similar to others across the United States that tax a variety of sugary beverages but are popularly called soda taxes — took effect on Jan. 1, 2018. In its first three months as law, it reportedly raised almost $4.5 million. If that pace holds throughout the rest of the year, it will blow past the city's budget... Read more →


The trade war with China is on. At midnight on Friday, July 6, the $34 billion tit-for-tat between the world's two largest economies took effect. The Trump Administration placed added charges mostly on Chinese aerospace products, information technology, auto parts and medical instruments. Beijing retaliated with its own tariffs primarily aimed at on American farm products, cars and crude oil. But if China doesn't blink, the White House says it could ultimately impose charges on up to $500 billion of Chinese goods. Business opposition continues: For months, potentially affected U.S. companies and the organizations that represent their economic sectors have... Read more →


Couples by Michael Lehet/Flickr CC The hubby and I basically have a pretty equal, albeit traditional gender swapped, marriage. He's more persnickety when it comes to cleaning. So he does much of those household duties, including bathrooms and whole-house vacuuming. I hate that noise, so he vacuums when I'm out; that's one of the reasons I love him! We split kitchen duties, with the person who doesn't cook dinner doing the cleanup. We collaborate on investments, deciding how much and where our money goes. As for the day-to-day expenses, I take care of making sure the bills are paid on... Read more →


Two days ago, Americans celebrated our declaration of independence from Great Britain. That July 4th revolutionary spark was ignited, of course, by our protests against taxation by King George III without adequate representation. Over the years, however, the words of our 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, have proven prophetic. "The nation which had fought a revolution against taxation without representation discovered that some of its citizens weren't much happier about taxes with representation," noted my outspoken and observant fellow Texan. Still, most of us have come to realize the importance of taxes, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.... Read more →


One of those hammocks has my name on it, after I finish a few July tax tasks. (Photo by Roberto La Forgia via Flickr CC) School is out. The fireworks have been shot (except for the stashes of my neighborhood's teens, which based on prior post-July 4 experiences, probably will last another week). And the heat is definitely on. That means it's finally, fully summer. And that means that it's time to get down to some serious summertime tax moves. Yes, I know you want to head to the pool or beach or catch up on neglected novels or just... Read more →


Instead of my usual cup of coffee, I'm celebrating America's 242nd birthday this July 4th with a spot of tea. Yes, the British beverage and phrasing is intentional, since as we all know, the taxation of tea without representation was the final act of tyranny that sparked the American colonies' revolt. Tea other British taxes: Our colonial forebears had long dealt with British taxes. The passage in 1767 of the Townshend Revenue Act imposed taxes on glass, lead, oil, paint, paper and tea. But while all those other duties were repealed in 1770, the British decided to keep the tax... Read more →


Traffic jam. (Photo by Danielle Scott via Flickr CC) If you're on the road today, sorry. AAA is projecting a record-breaking 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day holiday. That's an increase of more than 5 percent over last year and the highest number since AAA started tracking July 4th travel 18 years ago. And Tuesday, July 3, travel is the worst day to be hitting the highway, at least when it comes to major metropolitan areas. INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in... Read more →


Has anyone really been as happy as this couple when filing their taxes? The IRS hopes the new, shorter Form 1040 will put smiles on more taxpayers' faces. Did you spend your weekend looking at the new Form 1040, which the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service officially unveiled on June 29? I didn't think so. That's OK. Most of us, either individual taxpayers or our tax pros helping us file, don't look at literal paper tax forms any more. We use computer software that walks us through the filing process. Still, it's worth reviewing the new form since it's... Read more →


Charles Rettig, Donald Trump's choice to head the IRS, is expected to be confirmed, despite not originally revealing that he has an ownership stake in properties in a Trump-branded Hawaiian hotel. (Photo of Trump International Hotel Waikiki via Hotels.com) The Internal Revenue Service may soon have a new commissioner, almost eight months after the last tax agency chief retired. But before Charles P. Rettig gets his new title, some lawmakers want more information from him about his ties to Donald J. Trump. Specifically, they want to know whether Rettig would maintain his independence from the man who nominated him. That... Read more →


Taking a post-vows moment. (Photo by Barney Moss via Flickr) If you were a June bride or groom, congratulations! My best wishes also go out to folks who wed in any other month. I've been a wife a long time and I highly recommend matrimony. You've got someone who, as most vows still say, will be there for all the good and bad times. Plus, you've got a built-in excuse for getting out of things you don't want to do ("So sorry, but we can't make it. The hubby has to work."). There also, as I've noted numerous times here... Read more →


U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised that this week we'd see the new, shorter and closer-to-a-postcard Form 1040. Well, the week's almost over and we're still waiting. However, I'm sure Mnuchin will keep his word and sometime today officially debut the new tax return. My faith is not so much in the Administration's top money man, as it is on the fact that I'll be out of my office and offline most of the day due to some personal business I can't reschedule. I'm good at tax timing like that. At least the proposed changes already have leaked. First came... Read more →


Taxpayers from three hurricane-affected U.S. islands must file their 1040s — and possibly Form 8898 — by this Friday, June 29. If that's not possible, these affected U.S. residents still can file for an extension by tomorrow to get three and a half more months. The community of Miñi Miñi, Puerto Rico, was flooded after the Carraizo Dam released water to deal with the deluge from Hurricane Maria. The category 4 hurricane tore through the U.S. island territory on Sept. 20, 2017. (Photo by Yuisa Rios/FEMA) Sorry for the late alert U.S. taxpayers who are residents of the country's islands,... Read more →


New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) places the state's first legal sports bets on June 14 at Monmouth Park Racetrack. (Screenshot from AP coverage. Click image to view full video.) New Jersey's governor put his money behind the Garden State's new sports betting option. Now he's paying for that. New Jersey started taking bets on sporting events on June 14, a month after the Supreme Court ruled in the state's favor and three days after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law making his and, N.J. establishments hope, millions of other such wagers legal. The debut of the new sports betting... Read more →


The new postcard-sized Form 1040 isn't nearly as pretty as the vintage Austin, Texas, postcard, reproduced as a mural in the Lone Star State's capital city. The tax postcard also isn't nearly as simple as its smaller size — or the Republicans who've long promised it — would have taxpayers believe. Image courtesy Roadhouse Relics Facebook/Instagram The good news about the new postcard-sized Form 1040 is that it is, as promised, smaller. The bad news is that in condensing the form, the Internal Revenue Service removed many popular above-the-line deductions that survived the actual new tax law itself. That's the... Read more →


The world — OK, U.S. tax world — is anxiously anticipating the shrinkage (yeah, I'm now replaying that Seinfeld episode in my head, too; sorry) of Form 1040. The Treasury Secretary last week promised that by the time the 2019 tax filing season rolls around, the longest tax return, which is filed by 68 percent of taxpayers, will be substantially smaller. The goal is the long-promised size of a postcard. But another Internal Revenue Service form that affects even more folks already has been revised. The IRS earlier this month released a draft version of Form W-4 for the 2019... Read more →


On June 20, Republican leaders, including Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas speaking, celebrated the six-month anniversary of House passage of their tax bill. (Screenshot from Speaker.gov video; click image to view full event) When the Republicans finally got the tax cuts they wanted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, they viewed the changes as not only good tax policy but also a good political move. The debate continues as to the efficacy of the changes as far as tax policy, but there's more of a consensus on its political possibility. And the news is... Read more →


Since its appearance in 2003, around 50 million taxpayers have used Free File. As the name indicates, this partnership of the Internal Revenue Service and tax software manufacturers known as the Free File Alliance gives most taxpayers the opportunity to do their taxes on their computers and then e-file them at no cost. But, notes Pro Publica in an article co-published with Quartz, the number of Free Filing taxpayers comes to just around 3 percent of eligible households. That, according to the article by Tik Root, means that folks have spent around $1 billion on tax prep and filing fees... Read more →


Speaker Paul Ryan touts postcard tax return possibilities after House passage of tax reform legislation last November. (Screen shot from Speaker.gov YouTube video) Every year the Internal Revenue Service makes tweaks to tax returns. Often it's simply updating annual inflation adjusted amounts. Other times it's adding or subtracting a line due to law changes. But for 2018's filing material, there will be large-scale form alterations thanks to the major changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Among the new law's modifications for the 2018 tax year will be the actual size of the oldest of the tax... Read more →


U.S. Supreme Court photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr CC Sorry most* U.S. shoppers. Whether you buy from your main street brick-and-mortar retailer or your favorite cyber mall, you're probably going to owe sales tax. Sorry, too, many U.S. businesses that rely on online, catalog and phone sales. You're going to have to devise ways to collect and remit sales tax (or at least report) on your remote transactions. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today ruled in South Dakota vs. Wayfair that the nexus standard established in 1992 by the High Court's Quill vs. North Dakota decision... Read more →


Kilauea lava flow from U.S. Geological Survey via Giphy.com Hawaiians got some relatively good news this week in connection with the continuing lava flow from Mount Kilauea. The volcano is continuing to spew potentially deadly gases and pour flaming lava across a growing southeastern section of the 50th state's Big Island. The eruption, which started May 3, also is still producing explosions and earthquakes. Now, however, the catastrophe has been declared a major disaster by the White House. That is good tax news for affected residents, which is everyone on the state's largest island, also named Hawaii, as is the... Read more →