As the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history drags on with no end in sight, furloughed workers are looking at any and all ways to pay their bills. Some have taken hardship withdrawals from their workplace retirement accounts. Thousands of others have applied for unemployment. Few of us can blame folks who are struggling financially for taking these steps. At some point, many of us or our family members and friends have done the same. There's no shame in taking available help when bills you can't pay continue to arrive. And while such actions can help out-of-work folks make... Read more →


The current, and longest-ever, federal government shutdown has made it painfully clear that many of Uncle Sam's employees don't have an emergency savings cushion. They are not alone. A study released last summer found that only about a quarter of all Americans across nearly all ages and generations have no savings whatsoever in an emergency fund. Just more than a quarter of U.S. residents, 29 percent, had saved enough to cover six months' worth of living expenses. When people do save, they tend to do so for retirement. It's not necessarily that they're looking ahead to their golden years. Rather,... Read more →


IRS headquarters image by Kari Bluff via Flickr Creative Commons The Internal Revenue Service has some good news for taxpayers and sort of good news for its staff. The agency is calling back more than half — specifically, 46,052 or almost 55 percent of its more than 80, 265 — employees. These are workers who, according to the updated government shutdown contingency plan issued Jan. 15 by the Treasury Department, are necessary for the IRS "to continue return processing activities to the extent necessary to protect Government property, which includes tax revenue, and maintain the integrity of the federal tax... Read more →


Even in the best of tax times, folks are impatient when it comes to getting their refunds. They want them yesterday, looking to collect on the forces savings account they created when they intentionally had too much put into their paycheck withholding. Then comes 2019, where every day it's looking more like parts of the federal government, including the Internal Revenue Service, will be in shutdown mode when the annual tax return filing season starts on Jan. 28. While the Treasury Department and IRS say they will do what it takes to make this year as normal as possible, many... Read more →


Internal Revenue Service offices nationwide, like this one in New York City, are closed due to the ongoing federal government shutdown. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz via Wikipedia Commons) Most of us don't have personal interactions with the Internal Revenue Service. We simply do our taxes every year, send them to the federal tax collector and move on with our lives. It's a different story in many places across the country. Those places have physical IRS offices where friends and family usually go each weekday to do their jobs. They want the government shutdown shut down so they can get back... Read more →


Longest U.S. federal government shutdown in history be damned! That's apparently the Internal Revenue Service's motto this year. It announced last week that it will start working on our 2018 tax returns — and issue any related refunds — this filing season, which is set to start on Monday, Jan. 28, even if it's technically still operating in modified shutdown mode. The IRS underscored that commitment on Friday, Jan. 11, when it announced that taxpayers who qualify to use Free File can now access the online no-cost tax preparation and e-filing option. Yep. Free File 2019 is now open for... Read more →


Twenty-two Twenty-eight days and counting (updated Jan. 18, 2019). We now are in the midst of the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. National park properties, such as the National Mall west of the U.S. Capitol, are among the federal operations and services that shut their doors when funding runs out.. (Photo by Emw via Wikimedia) On Friday, Jan. 11, hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the country got their first paychecks of 2019. They all received the same amount $0.00. In addition to not getting paid, which poses the obvious problems for federal workers, many will face... Read more →


Today should be payday for hundreds of thousands of federal government workers. The partial government shutdown, however, means they're not getting their money. And even though the White House, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service say that the 2019 filing season will open at the end of January as it has in years past and that refunds will be issued, there's no guarantee that things will go smoothly. We are, after all, talking about Uncle Sam's operations. Can IRS meet refund challenge? The IRS says it will recall "a significant portion" of its currently furloughed workforce to open tax season... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service still is mostly closed due to the Capitol Hill impasse over how to fund the federal government. Just a relative handful of employees are in a few IRS offices, doing what have been deemed essential jobs, but not getting paid for their work. Some of the agency's online operations, however, are up and running. And other IRS services, particularly those that are funding in part by fees, could be restarted despite the closure of many of Uncle Sam's offices. In fact, one of those, the Income Verification Express Service (IVES) program, was restarted this week (more... Read more →


Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are getting a divorce. I know, it's hard to feel too bad for folks who are so wealthy. They tend to come through difficult circumstances quite well. But the joint announcement today (on Twitter, of course) from the world's richest man and his soon-to-be ex-wife got me thinking about, of course, taxes. By making the decision to end their marriage in 2019, Bezos is losing a tax break while Mrs. Bezos is getting one. As I said, I'm sure neither Mr. or Mrs. Bezos won't suffer too much. Both he and his wife will have lots... Read more →


Tax filing time! (Photo by MoneyBlogNewz via Flickr) The Internal Revenue Service will begin processing 2018 tax returns on Jan. 28. That's essentially the same the time, the last Monday of the month, that filing season started last year. Free File, the partnership between the IRS and the tax software industry, has in the past opened at least a few days earlier (it was available on Jan. 12 last year), but there's no word on that 2019 no-cost online tax prep and filing option yet. But one thing the IRS did make clear is its commitment to the Jan. 28... Read more →


Good news today for folks who are expecting a tax refund when they file their 2018 returns this year. You'll get your money, even if the partial government shutdown drags out into the 2019 tax filing season. That's the word from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to Hallie Jackson, chief White House correspondent for MSNBC. Jackson made that announcement during Ali Velshi's show this afternoon after leaving an hour-plus White House press briefing, led by Vice President Mike Pence, on the shutdown. "The head of Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, is telling us that there... Read more →


Whew! We made it through 2018, the first full year that the latest major tax law changes were in effect. Now we're about to see, depending on when Congress and the White House can agree to get the government (including the Internal Revenue Service) fully operational, if we can deal with the first tax filing season under those laws. But before we get lost in the intricacies of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), I'm taking this one early day in 2019 to look at the six tax stories that turned out to be big deals last year. These... Read more →


It's that time of year again, tax season. OK, not officially, especially since we're waiting for Congress and the White House to reach a deal that will end the partial government shutdown and let the Internal Revenue Service resume operations at full speed again. But we taxpayers can't afford to wait on the politicians. We know that we still have to file our taxes, even it we end up having to wait on the IRS to process our returns. Yeah, I know. Not fair. But c'est la tax laws. To make sure that we stay on track, I'll again be... Read more →


Close-up of National Geographic United States wall map. Click image to see all 50 states. Most states tend to operate on fiscal years, with July 1 being an effective date for a lot of law change State leaders, however, realize that their residents follow the Gregorian calendar, so they still make Jan. 1 the effective date for major revisions of law. I was surfing the Web on New Year's Day — doesn't everybody?!? — and ran across some interesting state tax law changes that took effective with the arrival of 2019. Below is a look at what I found. New... Read more →


We still don't know when the 2019 tax filing season will start. But that uncertainty has no bearing on the tax deadlines we're all expected to meet, even when some of Uncle Sam's offices are closed or operating with fewer staff than normal. The Internal Revenue Service usually begins accepting and processing returns around mid- to late-January. Meeting that traditional opening date already was going to be tough. The agency has been in crunch mode for the last 12+ months with the added work of making sure forms, instructions and guidance reflect all the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)... Read more →


Screenshot from C-SPAN broadcast of the convening of the 116th Congress. Click image for full video. It's official. The 116th Congress is in session, with the Democrats retaking control of the House. As expected, longtime California legislator Rep. Nancy Pelosi is now Speaker of the House. Also as expected, presidential tax returns are atop the House Democrats agenda. Yes, I'm talking about the still unseen 1040s of Donald J. Trump, both those he filed while a candidate (and before), as well as his post-election filings. Trump was the first major-party presidential nominee since the 1970s to refuse to release his... Read more →