Folks who cheat on their taxes to pocket extra dollars are infuriating enough to those of us struggling to do everything right on our 1040 forms. Folks who go to extremes to evade taxes are even more maddening. The Internal Revenue Service, however, has some good news for us here. It's Criminal Investigation (CI) unit is catching and convicting these tax criminals at a commendable rate. A 91.2 percent conviction rate in 2019, to be precise. That's among the highest of all federal law enforcement agencies, according to the IRS. And CI, which detailed that conviction rate and other successes... Read more →


The days left in 2019 are dwindling. Quickly. Don't just take my work for it. Check out the countdown clock over in the right column of the ol' blog literally clicking away the seconds left in this year. That means it's time to act to cut your taxes. You can check out my monthly tax moves (thank you!) for November and December for some possibilities. While I did mention in those earlier posts (the November one specifically) the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's 20 percent tax break for small businesses that operate as passthrough entities, most of those earlier tips... Read more →


Record-setting Cyber Monday sales means more porches across the United States will look like this. But the remote sales' boost to state tax coffers wasn't as big as some expected. $9.4 billion. That's how much U.S. shoppers spent on the just-passed Cyber Monday. That was nearly 20 percent more than last year's $7.9 billion tally for the annual and over-hyped Monday-after-Thanksgiving online shopping day. Obviously, the $9.4 billion in sales is a Cyber Monday record. Also obviously, all those online transactions will help out the state treasuries that now, in the wake of the Supreme Court's Wayfair 2018 decision, are... Read more →


The IRS plans to take closer and continuous looks at individuals who want to join its programs. We are living in a digital world. That's why the Internal Revenue Service, which itself has been encouraging, and in some cases, forcing us to go online when it comes to our tax tasks. Such increased cyber interactions obviously have some downsides. Chief among them is the opportunity for hackers to take over our identities, tax and otherwise. That's why the IRS and its Security Summit partners are participating in the 4th Annual National Tax Security Awareness Week. It included an IRS-moderated #TaxSecurityChat... Read more →


Updated Friday, Dec. 6, 2019 Source: PhotoMIX Ltd via Pexels Yes, I know Cyber Monday has come and gone. I also realize that a lot of folks finished up their holiday shopping earlier this week. But there always are those of us who put off picking up that perfect present until the last minute. Or, as Dec. 25 nears, we just happen to see something that our spouse, parents, children or best fiend would absolutely love. So, since we seem to be perpetually logged in, we click on it and we're done. Unless our clicking leads to identity theft. Beyond... Read more →


Congratulations! You made it through Thanksgiving. And Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Are you ready for one more special day before the end-of-year biggies? I'm talking about today, Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday, a post-Thanksgiving fixture since 2012, is the unofficial kick-off of the annual end-of-year charitable season Today was designed as a global day during which folks are encouraged to give back to their communities and the charitable causes they care about. The timing fits right into the end-of-year solicitations by nonprofit organizations and the annual tax considerations of donors. Tax cuts also cut donor numbers: Over... Read more →


These carolers, dressed in Dickensian attire, are no doubt singing traditional Christmas tunes, not my reworked and tax-themed "O Tannenbaum." (Photo by Chris Waits via Flickr CC) O Tax Year-End (O Tax Year Moves) O Tax Year-End, O Tax Year-End, How are thy days so nearing! O Tax Year Moves, O Tax Year Moves, How are thy days so wearing! Not only in the wintertime, But even in young spring is thy prime. O Tax Year-End, O Tax Year Moves, How are thy days so nearing! Yes, that's my attempt at tax lyrics to the tune "O Tannenbaum," known here... Read more →


Current state and local taxes deduction limit on federal Form 1040 Schedule A. We're wrapping up the second full year of living with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) but some things still feel unfinished. Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service continue to issue guidance on various provisions, tax forms still are being tweaked, economists can't agree on the tax bill's economic effects and a key legal battle is still raging. The courtroom drama is about, you guessed it, TCJA's $10,000 limit on state and local taxes itemized federal deductions. Fighting a low-SALT tax diet: In July 2018, New... Read more →


Some food delivery apps apparently are shorting states when it comes to sales tax on the delivery fees. The 2019 holiday shopping season is officially underway. The kickoff remains Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as many shoppers remain committed to post-Turkey Day sales. Early data from Adobe Analytics shows in-store sales were up 4 percent from last year. But consumer patterns are changing. The store of choice for more and more of us is the internet, which is open 24/7 365 days a year. Online Black Friday sales were up early in the day by more than 19 percent... Read more →


Gift cards are great presents for family and friends. There's no worrying about sizes or misinterpreted wish list hints. Gift cards, however, are not an option to pay your taxes. That fact hasn't stopped con artists. The Internal Revenue Service says tax scams involving the prepaid pieces of plastic presents are on the rise. The tax agency says it has received many reports of taxpayers being asked to pay a fake tax bill through the purchase of gift cards. Breaking down the con: The tax scammers tend to follow the same basic script, tweaking it as needed when marks get... Read more →


Happy Thanksgiving. This annual gathering of family and friends is supposed to be a happy time of reconnecting. Nowadays, though, that takes some work. So to help you enjoy this Turkey Day instead of dread it or worse, here are some tips. Some are even tax-related. Acknowledge your differences: Clashes between family members have been going on since humans appeared on this planet. Unfortunately, over-sized expectations during holidays tend to make them worse. Old arguments — be they political, emotional or otherwise — often resurface. Recognize this and be ready. You aren't going to change your relatives or the issues... Read more →


Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr CC You decided to skip the road trip this Thanksgiving, but you still gotta touch base with the family. Today's technology offers lots of options. But many of us still use our newfangled wireless phones for that old-fashioned task of talking. We're also paying more taxes to do so. Cell phone taxes rising: A typical American household with four wireless phones paying $100 per month for taxable wireless service can expect to pay about $260 per year in taxes, fees and surcharges, according to the Tax Foundation. That's up from $229 in 2018. The... Read more →


More than 55 million people are expected to travel this Thanksgiving week, according to AAA, with the majority of them doing so via vehicle. If you're among this group of travelers, drive safely! (Photo by Reinis Traldas via Flickr CC) The hubby and I aren't going over the Pedernales River or through the Hill Country meadows this Thanksgiving. In fact, we usually don't. We have our own small family spread of Texas smoked brisket, sausage and all the yummy sides like ranch beans, coleslaw and potato salad. We do incorporate a few traditional Turkey Day elements into our November holiday.... Read more →


Photo by Elaine Smith via Flickr CC It's been more than a year since the Supreme Court said states could collect online sales taxes from retailers who don't have any physical presence, aka nexus, in their states. But the internet tax collection process is still evolving. Going from a system where nationwide online sellers rarely if ever collected sales taxes from their customers to one — or actually multiple given the various tax system of states — where these purchasing levies are collected is not easy. Still, progress has been made. Online sales tax collection evolution: These taxes still are... Read more →


These West Texas cattle don't appear worried about much. Their owners, however, have a lot of concerns, including severe weather that could hurt their agribusiness operation. In the case of drought, they might get some tax relief. (Photo by Kay Bell) "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," observed Hartford Courant editor Charles Dudley Warner back in the late 1800s. More than a century later, that meteorological quip is still applicable. Long-time readers know I'm one of the guilty weather complainers. Heck, I do it so much that it's earned its own category on the ol'... Read more →


The men and women hoping to win the Democratic presidential nomination have gotten a lot of attention for their proposals to tax the wealthy. That's obviously an area to watch, as the money could help pay for some other tax and public policy pitches. But most of us aren't wealthy. So what is really important to us is how much of a tax bite the Internal Revenue Service would take out of our average Jane and Joe Taxpayer income under Democratic plans. The Tax Foundation has looked at the tax proposals from the four Democratic White House wannabes who, at... Read more →


Thanksgiving is still a week away. It's another month-plus until Santa puts presents under trees. But holiday shoppers have been hitting the stores and online hard thanks to early Black Friday sales. In fact, more than half of consumers have already started this year's holiday shopping and nearly a quarter of planned purchases have been made, according to the annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Still, there's plenty of shopping and shoppers to do it out there. That means that retailers still are looking for help to handle the remaining seasonal shopping... Read more →


A walk along Long Bay in the British Virgin Islands (Photo courtesy Long Bay Beach Club Resort) The first Caribbean vacation the hubby and I took was to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). We had a lovely suite on a hillside overlooking Long Bay. The beaches were fantastic, the weather was ideal, the food superb and we — and by we, I mean the hubby — got in some scuba diving during a day-sail trip. I saw that barracuda in the water and opted to stay on deck. Since then, we've hit a few other island getaway spots, but BVI... Read more →