Tax Tip Feed

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your family members, even -- or for many of us, especially -- the furry ones. My mom and her furry child having an important pre-Thanksgiving dinner conversation. As we gather today to say thanks for all we have, many of us will include our pets among our blessings. I know my mother would be lost without her constant companion. She is not alone. Almost every pet owner will tell you that their animal is a member of the family. The IRS, though, tends to disagree. That's why the taxman won't let you claim your... Read more →

For the last few months, the standing joke in our house has been that the first words the hubby and I say to each other every morning is, "Can we retire today?" Beach? Mountain cabin? A cruise? Traveling across Europe? What's your retirement dream? Start planning now to achieve it. OK. Maybe we don't ask that question first thing in the morning, but that's mainly because the hubby is not a morning person. But we have been paying closer attention to our retirement stash, as well as checking on what we can one day expect from Social Security. Calculating retirement... Read more →

Are you hunkered down at home today, hiding out until Friday the 13th passes? You are not alone in suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia. The number 13 has been considered an omen of bad luck for ages. One explanation is that 12 has historically represented the number of completeness; examples include the 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours of the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Jesus, and 12 Imams of Muhammad. Thirteen, on the other hand, is seen as an outlier. However, I will happily take a specially priced Baker's Dozen of pastries on... Read more →

Last week's jobs report for October was surprisingly good. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent, its lowest level since 2008 and half of the 10 percent rate in the wake of the financial crisis. If predictions are correct for seasonal hires this year, even more workers could be having a merrier than usual Christmas. Businesses in San Antonio are following the national trend in hiring for the holiday season. Click image to see KSAT-ABC's report. But that holiday joy could be dashed at tax filing time if you don't pay attention to how you are classified by your temporary... Read more →

I'm a little slow posting today. I had to go vote. Have you been to your polling place yet? If not, you need to get out and make your voice heard. Most polling stations are open until 7 p.m. local time. Not only is public participation at the polls key to our democracy, it's also an important tax move for voters in some states. State tax questions on some ballots: Here in Texas, we're deciding on three tax initiatives. The biggie is a proposal to hike the residential homestead property tax exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. Most eyes, however, are... Read more →

Marriage means doing things together, even things you hate, like visiting the in-laws, cleaning out the garage and filing taxes. You might be able to let those first two slide, but when it comes to taxes, no such luck. Most couples file a joint tax return. That single Form 1040 is a legal document and if you ignore filing it or mess it up, you'll face consequences worse than your spouse's wrath. Her forced smile makes me think she's not buying what he's saying as they work together on their joint tax return. The Internal Revenue Service considers both spouses... Read more →

Happy Tax Day! No, I'm not six months late. Millions of ultimate procrastinators every year get an extension to file their tax paperwork. That absolutely final filing deadline is today. Oct. 15. I must confess I'm one of those who delayed filing back in April. I finished my taxes a couple of days ago. If you're part of my club, here are some tips on getting your return safely to the Internal Revenue Service. 3 tax delivery tips for electronic filers Filing electronically is the easier option. You just have to fill out the forms, double check them and then... Read more →

I can't believe I'm about to type this, but Donald Trump is right. Here's the caveat. I'm talking about Trump's approach to paying taxes. The pompous billionaire says he pays as little as possible in taxes. Donald Trump, in an Aug. 2, 2015, telephone interview with CBS Face the Nation host John Dickerson, discusses his tax strategy. "I fight like hell to pay as little as possible," Trump said in a CBS Face the Nation phone interview in August. "I am a businessman, and that's the way you are supposed to do it. And you put the money back in... Read more →

October is here, finally bringing with it colorful leaves and cooler Fall weather. OK, not so much here in Central Texas, where temperatures insist on hovering in the mid-90s, around 10 degrees above normal. Photo of a colorful park in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada by Paul Bica courtesy Flickr Creative Commons. Much more certain than the weather during this first full month of Autumn is the key tax deadline of Oct. 15. That date is, of course, when procrastinators must finally send in their prior year's tax return. It's also the due date for other important, and tax-related, retirement moves. Here's... Read more →

I grew up in Texas. West Texas, to be specific, where independence is, in large part because of the vast distances between towns, not just a concept but a necessity. So it's no surprise that labor unions essentially were nonentities in my early life. That said, I grew up appreciating the value of unions. My dad, an oil field worker his whole life, made sure my brother and I knew that labor unions are to be valued by all workers, regardless of whether they belong to one. Sally Field won her first Oscar for her portrayal of title character Norma... Read more →

Hello, September! We've been waiting all summer for you. Parents are thrilled that their children of all ages are back to school. The promise of cooler weather is on the horizon. Football season is here. And if we can make it through the next 30 days without a major hurricane hit, we'll be in good shape. September also is a great month to make some key tax moves. Covering classroom costs: Let's start with the kids' return to their classrooms. If your children are in college, there are many tax-saving ways to pay for those higher education expenses. One of... Read more →

Oh, Congress. If we were dating, our relationship would be in Ashley Madison level trouble. The bad is that you are so predictable. Same old, same old political demagoguing and no action. Worse, all that talking plays into your tendency to procrastinate, which is incredibly annoying. Worst, your dilly-dallying is really messing up my and millions of other taxpayers' tax planning. Sir Patrick Stewart (left) and Sir Ian McKellen (right), two lions of British theater, teamed up in 2013 for a Broadway production of "Waiting for Godot." Waiting (again) for tax extenders: I am, of course, talking about the tax... Read more →

It's almost time for school to start. For college students, or their parents, that means it's also almost time to start emptying out bank accounts. OK, maybe you don't have to liquidate all your assets to go to college nowadays, but it is expensive. Tuition is, of course, a major outlay. And most folks now pay for their continuing education by taking out loans. A lot of loans. New York Federal Reserve figures show that student debt hit $1.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2015. School-related money is owed by about 43 million Americans. That's why the ever-escalating cost... Read more →

2015 was supposed to be the year of tax reform, specifically simplification of our complicated tax code. Instead, Congress has been tucking tax provisions into recently enacted pieces of non-tax legislation. The most recent was the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, popularly referred to as the short-term highway funding bill. That measure, signed into law on July 31, contains several new tax provisions, including changed filing deadlines, additional information reporting rules for mortgages and more time for the Internal Revenue Service to audit certain types of underreported income. But a month earlier when a... Read more →

And here we are, into August. School will start in some places this month. Elsewhere, folks are sneaking in one final vacation trip. Regardless of whether you're packing the kiddos' lunches or packing for a final seasonal jaunt, you're probably just trying to stay cool during these Dog Days of summer. You also should be looking at some August Tax Moves that could help you keep you cool now and at filing season next year. Here are some ideas. Tax-free shopping: Few things are cooler than getting a tax bargain. That's possible for shoppers in 18 states that this summer... Read more →

It's summer. Not to overstate the obvious, that means it's hot, hot, hot. It also means that pool contractors are making out like bandits, at least here in my Austin neighborhood. This time every year, the backhoes and dump trucks and cement mixers form a regular parade. And I get the same question from neighbors: Can I deduct my new swimming pool costs? If your backyard pool is mainly used by you and your family for this type of cooling off fun, you won't be able to deduct its construction costs on your taxes. Photo courtesy Tim Pierce via Flickr.... Read more →

Millennials continue to get a lot of attention, and not just from their parents. This group of 18-to-34-year-olds are shaping and reshaping today's world. Sorry, geezers, but it happens with every generation. And although out hand baskets seem to be filling up, we haven't made it to hell yet. Millennials are changing what we expect from and how we give to charities. They are redefining the workplace and how we get to and from the office and other places. Young adults' living arrangements: Then there's housing. We've heard all the jokes about the young adults who just won't leave home.... Read more →

More teenagers are working this summer. There aren't any jobs out there for young workers. Employees are struggling to find teens to work at traditional summer jobs. Google "teens and jobs" and you'll find all three of those reports on seasonal youth employment. So just what is the youth employment situation for the summer of 2015? Great, good or terrible depending on where you and your teenage live and the type of work you and your youngster are seeking. The ebb and flow of youth jobs: The Pew Research Center recently looked at what's happened over the years to the... Read more →

Welcome back from the July 4th break. I hope you had a great Independence Day. Our country's birth was brought about in part as a protest against taxation without representation. We still have taxes 239 years later, but at least we now have a Congress and state legislatures that are, sometimes, more receptive to our tax concerns. And while most of us will never be totally independent of taxes, we can make some moves to reduce our tax hassles and bills. July, the heart of summer and the beginning of the second half of the tax year, is the perfect... Read more →

Jeb Bush really did have 33 years of tax returns on hand and he opened them up for public inspection yesterday. When the former Florida governor announced that as part of his campaign to be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee that he was going to go to the extreme on personal tax transparency, I immediately wondered why he selected that particular number of years. I also wondered how come he had that many years of tax records on hand. I was not alone. CPA and Twitter pal Deanna Richardson also was intrigued by the massive amount of tax records. Most... Read more →