Taxpayer Advocacy Panel members provide information on how to improve the IRS at the agency's annual Tax Forums. (Photo courtesy TAP News) How many times, perhaps times per day, have you said, "If I were in charge, I'd do things differently." Now's your chance to follow up on that, at least when it comes to how U.S. taxpayers interact with our tax system and the agency that administers it. Become a member of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, or TAP as it's called, and improve the Internal Revenue Service. My personal TAP dance: I can hear the skepticism coming through the... Read more →


Millions of us file taxes every year. And millions of us, even those who get refunds, dread it. Why? We worry that we'll make a mistake. That's a legitimate concern. Despite lawmakers' perpetual promises to make our tax lives easier, they somehow seem to screw up that political pledge. Yes, I am looking at you Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), with your new forms and confusing tax breaks even when they provide some relief. Thanks, Congress! But sometimes, we filers have to bear some of the blame. We make things worse by making easily avoidable mistakes when we fill... Read more →


Having plenty of money apparently also has some drawbacks. Really. One is that you could soon get more attention from the Internal Revenue Service, especially if you've been, shall we say, a bit lax in letting Uncle Sam know about your how well you're doing. The IRS announced today that it will be sending agents to visit taxpayers who haven't filed returns or didn't do so in a timely manner in 2018 or previous years. These particular in-person tax inquiries, according to the IRS, will be on those whose income is $100,000 or more. Audit income disparities: These in-person audits... Read more →


Photo by Carlos Cuadros via Pexels It's prime tax-filing time! That's not just my observation. The Internal Revenue Service itself says it typically sees a surge in filings in the final two weeks of February. One of the main reasons for the rush is that folks finally have the tax statements they need. Most of those documents were required to be issued, or at least in the snail mail, to taxpayers by Jan. 31. Even given U.S. Postal Service delays, it's now been plenty of time for the documents to arrive. The crucial document for most filers is the W-2... Read more →


Today technically is George Washington's Birthday, but we've come to call it Presidents Day in honor of all our commanders in chief, like these four greats on Mount Rushmore National Memorial. (Image courtesy Mount Rushmore Facebook page) Happy Washington's Birthday. I know, most of us, including all the retailers offering us sales savings, tend to call today President's (or Presidents'; the apostrophe is mobile) Day. But officially on the federal level, the third Monday in February is Uncle Sam's day to honor the birth of the Father of Our Country. George's actual birthday is Feb. 22, 1731. We've celebrated it... Read more →


Even with increased e-filing, taxpayers still don't seem to be in a big hurry to send their 1040s to the IRS. At the start of every filing season, there's a lot of talk and media coverage (guilty!) about how folks are champing at the bit to get their returns in to the Internal Revenue Service. And for the last five years, taxpayers have said "meh," at least as far as filing as soon as they can. Comparing IRS filing data for early February from 2016 through 2020, we see: Filing Season Week Ending # Returns Filed % Change from Prior... Read more →


The Setting Up Every Community for Retirement Enhancement Act, or SECURE Act as it's popularly known, was attached to the omnibus spending legislation enacted in late 2019. Taxpayers, lawmakers and investment advisers generally supported most of the measure's changes to how we stash and ultimately access our retirement funds. One SECURE provision, however, is causing some concerns, especially among those who have accumulated large IRA holdings and who had planned to leave the bulk of that money to heirs. They and, more importantly, their heirs no longer have access to what used to be known as a stretch IRA. Ending... Read more →


First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then come two filing as one When it comes to their taxes. OK, "marriage" and "taxes" in my opening verse don't rhyme, which is why I'm a journalist, not a poet. But since I focus on taxes and today is, so romantics tell me, the most important day of the year for couples, I thought I'd give the marrying of taxes and wedded bliss a try. Here are five love and tax considerations. 1. Marriage date matters Sure you marry for love. But you might want to consider when you formally tie the knot.... Read more →


My [too] many medical treatment folders and dedicated medical travel log. (Kay Bell photo) I'm in the tax filing minority. I still itemize. Medical issues are the primary reason I've been filling out Schedule A for the last few years. Not to bore you with the gory details, but recently I've had a couple of medical scares and surgeries. Combine those with the requisite multiple physician follow-ups (this afternoon I'm heading to my fifth of sixth doctor appointments this month), continued testing and, of course, prescriptions and let's just say I'm helping many, many doctors pay off their vacation homes... Read more →


You're working on your tax return and discover you owe Uncle Sam more than you expected. It happens. And in most cases, you're stuck with that larger Internal Revenue Service bill. After all, the 2019 tax year is long gone. It's too late to make those year-end moves that could have helped cut your tax bill. But wait! In a couple of instances, you still might be able to reduce last year's taxes with some tax saving moves that are allowed as late as the April 15 filing deadline. You can make a potentially tax-deductible contribution to a traditional IRA.... Read more →


Every salaried worker is well aware of payroll taxes. These are taxes that come out of our earnings and go toward the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) programs, or what we know as Social Security and Medicare. Or, as the old first-time worker joker goes, "Who the heck if FICA and why is he getting some of my money?" FICA for now: Each FICA component is a percentage of a workers' pay and is paid by both the employer and employee. The total Social Security tax is 12.4 percent, split evenly between the two tax sources every pay period. The... Read more →


Treasury was one of only five departments or major agencies — the others are Defense, Veterans Affairs, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Homeland Security — that got budget bumps in the Trump Administration's Fiscal Year 2021 budget request. (Screen shot of CQ/Roll Call video of delivery of budget books to Capitol Hill) The annual presidential wish list, formally known as the administration's fiscal year (FY) budget, is public. Bottom line, and it's a big one, is the FY 2021 proposals top out at $4.8 trillion. When it comes to this funding exercise, regardless of which president or party... Read more →


Newark On Reddit via Twitter The Academy Awards is tonight and although I'm a big film fan, I'll probably skip it. The early awards shows have already spoiled it for me. Sorry, ABC. If Antonio Banderas somehow takes the Oscars statuette from Joaquin Phoenix, which is what I'd love to see, then I'll catch the replay on YouTube tomorrow. Some folks in New Jersey, however, will be closely watching this year's ceremony and pulling for the "Joker" actor. The street where Phoenix's disturbed Arthur Fleck character gets jumped early in the movie is in Newark. Tax breaks, of course, played... Read more →


I finally got the final 1099 I was waiting for yesterday. Yay! Now I can file my return. The 1099 situation for a retired Southern California dentist, however, didn't go so smoothly. David Powell, got a 1099 from MetLife insurance showing he was paid $1,500 for dental work he says he never performed. Since MetLife also sent that 1099 to the Internal Revenue Service, this meant Powell was on the hook for taxes on money he never earned. Double check documents immediately: Powell's case is why you always need to look at every tax statement — 1099s, W-2s, bank, brokerage... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers finally got their tax statements this week and promptly filed their returns. Millions more of us are still in the data gathering stage — Hey, it's not my fault! One of my 1099s still isn't here. — and will file soon. But all of us still are potential tax identity theft targets. Yes, even early filers. Crooks know these taxpayers generally are expecting refunds, so they tailor their deceptive approaches accordingly. Look out for IRS pretenders reaching out to you to say there's a problem with your filing. It can only be fixed, say these scammers who... Read more →


If this filing season is anything like previous ones, millions of taxpayers have already sent their 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service. One of the perennial questions is how many filers use tax software, specifically the options offered by the IRS-tax software industry partnership known as Free File. Again, if the 2020 filing season is like most before it, the news isn't likely to be good. Despite efforts by the IRS over the years, the Free File program is just not that popular with taxpayers. And making things worse for the program is a just-released report that says more than... Read more →


We are heading into the heart of tax filing season. That means it's also prime tax identity theft time. As part of its continuing efforts to fight cyber tax crime, the Internal Revenue Service this week launched a new web page, Identity Theft Central. Among the areas this new IRS.gov section covers is what to do if you're a victim of tax identity theft. The one that caught my eye was getting a copy of a fraudulent return that was filed in your name. I know that my journalistic tendencies make me nosy in the first place. But if I... Read more →


Thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court ruling, many other states have joined Nevada in accepting bets on sporting events. But casino operations like this one in Las Vegas still get plenty of action on days like Super Bowl Sunday. Happy Tuesday to everyone who skipped work yesterday. I hope you've fully recovered from your Super Bowl hangover. I also hope that at least some of your prop bets on the NFL championship game also paid off. So does the Internal Revenue Service. All your Super Bowl LIV winnings, as well as any other gambling proceeds are taxable income. Yes, even... Read more →


The shortest month of the year is a little longer in 2020. It's a Leap Year. What will we do with that extra day, Feb. 29? Of course, we're going to devote those additional 24 hours to our taxes. OK, maybe not. For many, this first full week of February is getting off to a slow part, thanks to the annual Super Bowl Sunday hangover. Others simply aren't ready to think taxes yet. It's not their fault. They, and that includes me, are still waiting for necessary tax-filing statements. And some eager and on-the-ball taxpayers don't want to think about... Read more →


This numerically notable day is part of the Leap Year, which gives us 24 more hours to devote to our taxes. Bonus huzzah! February 2, 2020. What a day. Super Bowl LIV. International pop star Shakira's birthday, which she'll celebrate performing with J-Lo at halftime of the NFL championship game. Groundhog Day (Phil says early spring). And the real biggie, it's Palindrome Day. This 2nd day of the second month of the year 2020 reads the same front or back when written out fully. 02022020 special features: Palindrome dates aren't that uncommon. It happened, based on how they're written, on... Read more →