Arthritis is one of the more common chronic medical conditions that millions of Americans face. There are treatments before you get to the joint replacement stage, but those recurring medical costs can add up, too. I finally filed away all the paper copies of last year's tax documentation and for the first time, I had more medical paperwork than work receipts. Yep, 2018 (like 2017) was one of those medical years. And while I'm still enriching various Austin doctors, labs and hospitals with follow-up care in 2019, my conditions aren't considered chronic. Yet. And no, basic aging doesn't count. A... Read more →


It's summer, so that means several states once again are holding their annual back-to-school sales tax holidays. There are 16 tax-free events this year, three in July and 13 in August. We Americans just can't seem to slow down, even during the traditional summer vacation season. We always are looking ahead. School's just been out a few weeks in most places and already ads for back-to-school sales are showing up in our television shows, print publications (yeah, a few are still around and read by some of us) and on our electronic devices. Look for the commercial come-ons to increase,... Read more →


In one tax world case, it does appear that the third time really is a charm. A recent Internal Revenue Service report says that its latest use of private bill collectors to bring in old unpaid taxes is working. In fact, this latest iteration has produced enough additional money to allow the IRS to hire new in-house employees. Third time's a collection charm: The use of private collection agencies, or PCAs as they are known in tax acronymese, was restarted in 2017 after being mandated as part of a 2015 transportation law. It's the third attempt after two previous PCA... Read more →


You don't have to have this many candles on your birthday cake to use Form 1040-SR. Hitting age 65 qualifies you to use file this new form starting next filing season. It's lose three, add one for the Internal Revenue Service when it comes to 2019 tax year forms. Uncle Sam's tax collector is proposing tweaks to the Form 1040 and elimination of three of the six schedules created to go with that annual individual return that was redesigned last year in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes. But the net result of forms available... Read more →


If the changes to Form 1040 this filing season frustrated you, there's some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Internal Revenue Service is revising the Form 1040 to be used for 2019 tax filings. No, it's still not quite a postcard. But there will be fewer schedules to file — three instead of six — if your taxes are a bit more complicated. The bad news is that many of us still have to fill out those schedules (and the accompanying forms for additional tax break claims that remained) instead of having things on... Read more →


North Carolina offers many gorgeous vistas, but the tax view for some trusts wasn't nearly so nice until a recent Supreme Court ruling. Now they can claim refunds of overpayments. (Blue Ridge Mountains viewed from Blue Ridge Parkway's Deep Gap overlook in western North Carolina; photo by Ken Thomas via Wikipedia Commons) You've got to appreciate the audacity of Tar Heel State tax officials. North Carolina decided it was due tax on a trust because a beneficiary was a state resident. That recipient of trust proceeds, Kimberley Rice Kaestner, was North Carolina's only connection to the trust. The person who... Read more →


Do you simultaneously use multiple digital devices? Me, too. Our online addictions are big money for tech giants and now France and other European nations want to get a piece of the tax pie from the global conpanies. Poor Facebook and Twitter and Google. (You noticed the sarcasm font, right?) They were shut out of Donald J. Trump's Social Media Summit on Thursday, July 11, which didn't end too, well, sociably. Worse, that same day France approved a measure to tax the tech giants. Since most of us live inordinately digital lives nowadays, I'm giving an early Saturday Shout Out,... Read more →


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was created more than 40 years ago as a way to give lower-earning workers a tax break. But from the get-go, the EITC has been problematic. Now, just weeks before the National Taxpayer Advocate retires, her office has offered Congress some suggestions on how to improve the tax credit, as well as how it can be more effectively administered. Some tax credit history: The way we got to today's EITC is almost as complicated and intricate as the tax break itself. When created in 1975, the EITC was supposed to be a temporary tax... Read more →


Washington, D.C., subway car awaiting Red Line passengers. (Photo by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) Moving from West Texas to Washington, D.C., was a revelation for many reasons. One of the key differences was transportation. The hubby and I came from a part of the country where cars (OK, trucks) were, and still are, the predominant way to get around. Suddenly, as the "On the Town" opening song goes, we were riding in a hole in the ground. We quickly fell in love with the D.C. Metro, even though when we arrived there in 1981, its routes were somewhat limited.... Read more →


Hello, July! The heat is definitely on, but there are plenty of ways to chill out, both personally and to put your 2019 tax bill on ice. Yes, I know you want to head to the pool or beach or catch up on neglected novels or just be generally lazy. I'm right there with you. But you'll enjoy those recreational pursuits a lot more once you've taken some steps, like the seven listed below, to lower your 2019 tax bill. Let's get to 'em! 1. Get weather ready. A low pressure trough moved overnight from Georgia to the Florida panhandle... Read more →


"Dead Again" was a fun thriller, but the concept isn't amusing if the IRS is holding your tax refund for the second time in two years because it still thinks you're deceased. Death and taxes are inevitable, but that's not the eventual convergence yet for one woman. Shakira Evans of Philadelphia, however, is having trouble convincing the Internal Revenue Service of that. Worse, it's the second consecutive year that the 22-year-old mother of two has had to fight for her tax refund from the IRS, which still thinks she's dead. Dead again: Evans went through this same thing last year,... Read more →


Much is made of the United States' voluntary compliance tax system. The IRS depends on every taxpayer to honestly and accurately report his or her earnings and figure the correct tax due on the amounts. Apparently, we agree with the self-reporting system, with most taxpayers saying cheating on taxes is wrong. Of course, part of the reason we look askance at fudging Form 1040 figures is because we're afraid the IRS will catch us. However, our fear of a tax audit might be exaggerated, according to the latest IRS Data Book. Fewer return reviews: Audits, or examinations as they're called... Read more →


A U.S. Geological Survey map displays the magnitude-7.1 earthquake that rattled Ridgecrest, California, Friday July 5, 2019. When the Northridge earthquake devastated that part of Southern California 25 years ago, I worked for a company headquartered in the area. Lucky for me, I was in the firm's government relations office in Washington, D.C., when the deadly 6.7 magnitude quake hit the early morning of Jan 17, 1994. Many of my California-based coworkers, however, sustained property damages. Some of those folks still live in Southern California. So do some of my relatives. Dangerous quake duo: This week, they felt the long-distance... Read more →


//Kara's Party Ideas If you don't have to work on this post-July 4th Friday, then you're probably spending the day recovering from your patriotic and fireworks-laden celebrations. Some folks also are resting up from their birthday partying. Yep, I'm talking about those folks born on the Fourth of July. Famous 4th birthday celebrants: Several celebrities share this early July birth date. People magazine published a slide show and those from that presentation that caught my eye include: Eva Marie Saint, the Academy Award winning actress immortalized in On the Waterfront, which was directed by Elia Kazan and also showcased real-life... Read more →


Photo courtesy frankieleon via Flickr CC On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, marking the newly-formed America's official break from British colonial rule. We all know that taxes and the original Tea Partiers were a major part of the creation of the United States. But what is less well-known is why communities across the country tonight will celebrate the nation's birthday by setting of pyrotechnic displays. Because Founding Father John Adams said so. Adams as early fireworks advocate: On July 3, 1776, a day after the Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted for independence (the declaration document itself... Read more →


In many states, sales taxes add to the costs of holiday fireworks. A few collect excise taxes, too. If the levies are dedicated to specific causes, they can do a lot of good. Read on for my suggested beneficiaries of pyrotechnics taxes. States take almost every opportunity they can to add to their coffers. That tendency also applies to July 4th celebrations. The obvious revenue connection is sales tax applied to purchases firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers and the wide variety of personal pyrotechnics. The sales numbers explain the appeal to state and local tax collectors. In 2018, the U.S. pyrotechnics... Read more →


Filling up photo by Jackson Lavarnway via Flickr CC If you're reading this, you're probably already clock watching. The Fourth of July holiday is less than two days away and, if you've got an accommodating boss, you'll get a nice long weekend. But until then, you're at your desk. When you do finally take off for your July 4th celebrations, you'll likely hit the road. That means you have two concerns. First, how bad will traffic be? Second, what will it cost me to fill up my tank? Spoiler alert, traffic will be crazy. Spoiler alert redux, motorists who live... Read more →