Dr. Seuss' The Grinch movie image courtesy Illumination Entertainment Grinches aren't always green. Sometimes we don't even know what they look like. That's the case when they set their sights on stealing not only Christmas, but your identity by sending fake emails. This holiday season, ID thieves have stepped up their phishing efforts. And some of those fake emails are going to tax professionals as part of payroll direct deposit and wire transfer scams. Tax pros targeted, too: Phishing scams tend to be small-d democratic. The business email compromise and/or spoofing tactics generally target all types of industry and employers.... Read more →


Those of us of a certain age — translation: before video games, handheld devices and Wi-Fi equipped cars — staved off road trip boredom with a variety of games. One was counting the various auto makes and models we came across in our travels. The hubby and I found ourselves doing a version of that last week when we were out running errands. It happened organically when we noticed there were an awful lot of Teslas on Austin's roads. My Central Texas neighbors are not alone in loving Elon Musk's electric auto. The Internal Revenue Service confirmed the national popularity... Read more →


Welcome to Part 10 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. This final part of the annual inflation tweaks focuses on vehicle mileage rates. You can find links to all 2019 inflation posts in the series' first item: income tax brackets and rates. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns that are due in April 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing this year's 2018 tax return due April 15, 2019. If your job requires you to be on the road, you'll get a bit bigger tax break for... Read more →


Welcome to Part 9 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. Today we look at tax penalties. You can find links to all 2019 inflation posts in the series' first item: income tax brackets and rates. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns that are due in April 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing this year's 2018 tax return due April 15, 2019. IRS agents don't throw flags like football referees, but the tax agency keeps a close eye out for violation of tax rules and laws and... Read more →


Photo by Alan Cleaver via Flickr CC Even though a partial government shutdown looms, the Internal Revenue Service is confident that the coming tax season will start on time. However, tax agency executives aren't yet saying exactly when that time will be. Shutdown looking more likely: The potential disruption of about a quarter of federal government agencies that have not yet been funded for fiscal year 2019 is looking more likely by the day. Just how that would affect the IRS, which is among those operations still awaiting full funding, came up during a media teleconference the agency held to... Read more →


Contributing to a 529 plan is one tax move you need to work into your hectic year-end holiday schedule since most states require you do so by Dec. 31 in order to claim associated state tax benefits on your next tax return. We're almost halfway through December. Are you feeling the holiday crunch? Sorry, but I'm here to add to it. As I've already nagged suggested back in November and earlier this month, you need to take care of some year-end tax tasks, too. One of those tax moves — contributing to a youngster's 529 plan — is worth another... Read more →


Public shaming is seen by some as a way to get folks to pay overdue taxes. If you're naughty when it comes to paying — or rather not paying — your California tax bill, then everybody, not just Santa, can know. That's the official word from the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation's top jurists decided on Monday, Dec. 10, that they won't consider a case challenging California's tax delinquent list. That means the names of the state's Top 500 tax delinquents will remain public. No High Court hearing: At issue was the Golden State law that requires the publication of... Read more →


Welcome to a new week, another seven days for cyber criminals to try to steal your personal, financial and tax information. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners in state tax departments and the tax world's private sector spent five days alerting us to potential tax identity theft schemes and ways to ensure we don't fall victim. Unfortunately, we need to be aware of the dangers of online tax and financial crime every single day of the year, not just for one designated week. That's why today I'm recapping the National Tax Security Awareness Week warnings.... Read more →


If you have a medical flexible spending account, or FSA, one of the key year-end tasks you need to take care of this month is ensuring that you don't lose any of this tax-free money. Yes, some employers give workers a 2½-month grace period, until March 15, to use the prior year's FSA funds. Others let their workers roll over up to $500 left in their medical accounts. Both of those options are at the discretion of the companies offering the tax-favored benefit. A lot of companies, however, still just take advantage of the use it or lose it rule.... Read more →


I've never been a big shopper. So when the ability to virtually peruse shelves and racks came along, it was like a gift from heaven. I am not alone. Even folks who enjoy the in-store experience have been shifting to online shopping in recent years. Cyber Monday 2018 hit a new shopping record. You'd think that this burst of online shopping would be good for state tax departments, more of which are now getting additional sales tax money following this summer's 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair. That ruling struck down the prior Quill nexus requirement... Read more →


Welcome to Part 8 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. Today we look at considerations of U.S. taxpayers living and working abroad. You can find links to all 2019 inflation posts in the series' first item: income tax brackets and rates. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns that are due in April 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing this year's 2018 tax return due April 15, 2019. Where's the best place for the world's estimated 57 million expatriates? InterNation's latest annual Expat Insider Survey says it's... Read more →


If any of these expired tax breaks apply to you and they're not renewed by year's end, wait a bit to file your 2018 return next year. By delaying your filing until they're retroactively renewed, you'll save yourself additional hassles. George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States was laid to rest today, marking the end of commemorations of his life and years of public service. The elder President Bush's death also brought the lame duck session of Congress to an almost complete halt, meaning that many measure lawmakers — particularly Republicans — had hoped to push through... Read more →


George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, lying in state at the U.S. Capitol on Monday, Dec. 3. (Screenshot from C-SPAN video.) President George H.W. Bush, who passed away Nov. 30 at age 94 at his Houston home, will be honored today, Wednesday, Dec. 5, at a state funeral at Washington National Cathedral. The current President and First Lady, along with four others commanders-in-chief — the late 43rd president's son George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, along with their wives — are among the dignitaries from around the world who will be... Read more →


Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days. But e-commerce platform Shopify Plus says cyber shoppers this December are expected to spend $7 billion more than they did in November. Crooks also are well aware of the increase in online shopping as Christmas nears. It's the perfect time for them to try to snag financial account information, Social Security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data they can use to steal individuals' identities. In the short term, cybercriminals can turn the stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards or creating new... Read more →


Truman the cat guarding presents under the Christmas tree. (Photo by Shawn Kinkade via Flickr CC) Ho, Ho, Ho, Happy Holidays! December is here. Time to decorate and, most importantly, get cracking on those gift lists. If you're not into frantic, crowd-fighting, last-minute shopping trips, here are five easy tax-related gifts for just about everyone on your nice list, including yourself. 1. Give to your favorite charities. You're probably already well aware of this option, since nonprofits have been sending out year-end donation solicitations since Halloween. Their urgency can be forgiven a bit more this year because of the tax... Read more →


Are you an Instagram fan? I have an account, but it's not my go-to social media platform. That's not too surprising since, according to various data, I'm not part of the app's primary demographic. The digital marketing firm Omnicore says 59 percent of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram. The Internal Revenue Service has found other research that shows an even larger slice of young Instagrammers. The tax agency says more than 70 percent of U.S. young adults age 18 to 24 are active on the photo and video sharing app. And since young people... Read more →


It's Dec. 1. That means we have to wait just 24 days until we can unwrap our presents, or 23 if you rip 'em open on Christmas Eve. It's also the first day in six months that we haven't been counting down the annual Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) compiled the above video that compresses Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) East satellite imagery of the entire six-plus-month season (yes, it started early again this year) into one minute. NOAA's YouTube presentation also gets this week's special video Saturday Shout Out. A secondary shout... Read more →