Politics Feed

Expensive real estate no longer provides owners unlimited federal property tax deductions. The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it will make an announcement about states efforts to provide taxpayers workarounds to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's $10,000 limit on state and local tax (SALT) federal deductions. The issue has arisen as a handful of states have enacted or are considering law changes to allow their residents to make contributions to state accounts, from which their state taxes then are paid. State "charity" workarounds: Essentially, the states' general approaches have been to effectively turn the tax payments into charitable... Read more →


California has the highest gas tax in the United States. Opponents are hoping to repeal it via a ballot measure this November. I filled up my mid-sized Chevy sedan's tank this morning, something I do every two weeks or so. I was stunned to see my local gas station, which usually sells gas at the lower end of the prevailing price scale, had regular unleaded going for $2.63 a gallon. That's a more than 50-cent hike from my previous tank top-off in April. It also put the Austin area (or at least my neighborhood) closer than it's been for a... Read more →


Selecting health care coverage definitely isn't child's play. Hey there, Health Savings Account (HSA) owners. The Internal Revenue Service has more numbers for you. Don't freak out. Your 2018 HSA amounts, which were tweaked thanks to changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and then reinstated to the original limits, are safe. This time, it's the inflation-adjusted limits on your high deductible health plan, or HDHP, and its associated HSA for the 2019 tax year. Popular health plan: First a quick bit of background on this health care coverage that is becoming quite popular as medical insurance costs continue... Read more →


Substantially more than half of Americans say recreational marijuana use should be legalized. The October 2017 Pew Research Center survey that found the pro-marijuana majority is the latest analysis that documents a steady increase in weed acceptance over the past decade. The currently slow-but-steady support for weed — the 61 percent approval in the latest survey is up just 4 percentage points from a 2016 poll, but it's nearly double the 31 percent pro-pot results recorded in 2000 — offers hope to the marijuana industry. Part of that pro-pot progress is the herb's prospects as a job creator and revenue... Read more →


Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Today is a commemoration of the Mexican Republic's victory in 1862 over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. While it's a national holiday in Mexico, festivities in that country are mostly located in and around the Puebla region. Here in the United States, however, Cinco de May is a big deal. That's especially true in Texas, where my native state once was part of Mexico. The Lone Star State's origins and the role of Mexican nationals and other Texians in helping establish Texas' independence in 1836 is one reason why we celebrate Cinco. That, and... Read more →


Small businesses like Wild Scoops, which sells handcrafted Alaskan ice cream and is featured on the Small Business Administration Instagram account, are saluted this National Small Business Week. Happy National Small Business Week 2018. OK, technically it started yesterday, Sunday, April 29, and runs through Saturday, May 5. I like that it's a full seven-day week, not just a Monday-through-Friday work week since most small business owners are on the job way more than the traditional five-day, 40-hour weeks. This week has been celebrated annual since 1963 as a way to recognize the contributions of U.S. entrepreneurs and small business... Read more →


May 4. That's the day the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee wants the Internal Revenue Service to explain exactly what happened on this year's Tax Day. If you were a last-minute filer, especially one trying to pay your 2017 tax bill, you remember the hassle on April 17 when the IRS experienced a spectacularly ill-timed systems crash. That day, one of the busiest of the year for the IRS, one of the agency's core systems in West Virginia failed. Unfortunately for the IRS and millions of tax-owing filers, it was the system that powered the IRS' Direct Pay and Payment... Read more →


It's no secret that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was designed to primarily benefit big businesses. But in order to make those tax cuts more palatable to the rest of the U.S. taxpaying universe, Congress added what it promised were benefits for Main Street mom-and-pop operations, too. What's that saying about best laid plans? Four months into the new tax law and it looks like small businesses have a couple of issues with the TCJA. First, an analysis by the Joint Committee of Taxation found that the key tax break for smaller operations, the Section 199A pass-through deduction,... Read more →


The IRS still has a desk waiting for its new commissioner. (Photo courtesy Cage Design Group) David Kautter, no doubt, was among the millions of Americans who were glad to see the 2018 high tax season end. Kautter is the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner and he was on his way to Congressional hearing on how things were going when he got news of his agency's Tax Day computer hardware problems. How much longer will Kautter, who also is assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, have to deal with all the IRS' operational matters, including the many issues related to... Read more →


Most taxpayers have never itemized their deductions. And the new tax law that took effect this year will ensure that even fewer filers fill out a Schedule A. By nearly doubling the standard deduction amounts, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) will prompt more folks to use them instead of messing with the record keeping and extra paperwork itemized deductions require. Plus, as I'm sure you've heard by now, starting with the 2018 tax year and running through, for now, 2025, other TCJA changes will make itemizing even less valuable. The amount of state and local taxes, including your... Read more →


Tax Day 2018 is almost here. This mid-April deadline, which falls on April 17 this year due to the Emancipation Day federal holiday in Washington, D.C., means that millions of us are in the midst of finishing up our federal tax returns. Many filers also are doing double tax duty right now. That's because they live in a state that taxes some portion of income. And most of those income tax collecting states follow the IRS filing calendar. That means those states' deadlines this year also are April 17. No, some or all state taxable income: Here in Texas, the... Read more →


Kids all across the country, including those in my neighborhood, spent Saturday hunting for brightly colored eggs. Or, if they're in the Washington, D.C. area, perhaps they're getting ready to participate in tomorrow's (Monday, April 2) 140th annual White House Easter Egg Roll, like the youngsters in the photo above did last year. Their parents, however, are more likely this weekend to be hunting for tax breaks as the April 17 filing deadline nears. Every tax season, lots of taxpayers overlook some deductions, credits or other tax moves that can reduce their eventual Internal Revenue Service bill. Here are some... Read more →


Employers were supposed to have new withholding tables in place by mid-February to reflect the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act income tax rate changes. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said once those payroll changes were in place, 90 percent of workers would see bigger paychecks thanks to the GOP tax bill. Mnuchin might want to rethink his prediction. A CNBC survey conducted March 17-20 of 800 Americans, 60 percent of whom were working, found that 52 percent of the employed haven't seen a change in their paychecks. In fact, just 32 percent of the working adults that CNBC talked to said... Read more →


Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) and fellow Ways and Means member Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) have offered a bill to revamp the IRS. Remember the kinder, gentler Internal Revenue Service? That was the goal of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, which sought to ease up on the tax agency's aggressive collection actions back then. Now two Ways and Means Committee members are looking to remake the IRS into a modern, more efficient agency that provides taxpayers a better experience. I'm pretty sure that modernizing and refining processes for better efficiency can eventually be accomplished. As for the improved... Read more →


Before departing D.C. last week for their version of spring break, Representatives and Senators, some grudgingly, approved a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government operating through September. Donald J. Trump signed the bill, which is massive by both dollar and legislative length (the bill ran 2,232 pages long) measurements, but not before injecting some reality show drama into the mix by threatening a veto. Both the $1.3 trillion outlay and 2,232 pages are huge, but since I have to pick one as this week's By the Numbers figure, I'm going with the dollar amount. Now, about... Read more →


Energy-efficient skylights installed in 2017 could provide homeowners some savings thanks to a recently renewed tax credit. Congress slipped some expired tax breaks into the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 enacted back in February. That was good news for taxpayers who can claim these tax breaks, but it set off a mad scramble within the Internal Revenue Service. Playing processing catch-up: Uncle Sam's tax agency had to dig out and update the appropriate forms and then re-set its processing systems to handle them. And all this had to be done while the 2018 tax-filing season was already underway. The IRS... Read more →


Internet shopping is now the preferred purchasing method for millions. Just ask Toys R Us, which has blamed its decision to shutter its operations largely on losses to remote sellers. But the taxation of products bought online is still a mish-mash of state laws. That could change in a few months depending on what the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decides in a high-profile remote sales tax case. The oral arguments in the case, South Dakota vs. Wayfair, are set for April 17, which just happens to be this year's federal tax return filing deadline. SCOTUS' decision is... Read more →


Luxury suites provide fans with more than just views of sporting events. Some companies use these special accommodations to woo or reward high-dollar customers. However, a new tax law limiting the deductibility of such entertainment could end or limit these and similar business expenditures. (AT&T Stadium luxury box photo courtesy SuiteHop via Facebook) The arenas where the NCAA's March Madness college basketball games are being played have luxury box seats where the seat owners used to entertain existing and potential high-dollar clients. I say "used to" because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that took effect this year could,... Read more →


Spring training games are wonderfully leisurely, at least for the fans. But Major League Baseball is a big business and some of its practices could be negatively affected by the new tax law. (Photo courtesy Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau) One of the good things about tax-filing season's timing is that it and Major League Baseball's spring training overlap a bit. That means when my head is about to explode from the hassles of taxes, I can take a break and catch some of the Boys of Summer preparations. The February and March games in Florida and Arizona are... Read more →


Photo by 401(k) 2012 via Flickr The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) prompted the Internal Revenue Service this week to reissue some tax-related inflation adjustments. However, one area was not affected by the TCJA's provisions. The amounts you can contribute in 2018 to your tax-favored retirement accounts did not change. There are two reasons for the retirement amounts' status quo. First, despite some Congressional discussions about changing retirement plans early in the tax bill's formulation, those proposals were dropped after much public outcry. (Sometimes our elected leaders do hear us!) Also, while the TCJA did change the tax-related inflation... Read more →