It's open season at workplaces across the United States this month. Nope, I'm not talking about team building hunting trips. I'm talking about hunting for the best employer-provided benefits for you and your family. Last year, the big new benefit that bosses were offering was a tax-favored ways to pay off student loan debt. That's still a big draw, with more companies eyeing this option to attract and keep workers, especially younger ones with huge college debt loads. But we're always looking for the new and shiny. This year, emergency funds are attracting employer and employee attention. The reason for... Read more →


The only thing that comes close to the chaos that is tax law is a telephone bill. Especially a cell phone bill. In addition to the phone charges — Remember those? That's when you use your device to talk to another person. — there are, among lots of other line items, things such as data charges, text charges and, of course, taxes. My monthly mobile phone bill is six pages long. One of those pages, thankfully sent digitally, is full of taxes and user fees. That's an excerpt of some them in the photo at the top of this post.... Read more →


Around 2 million Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) must be renewed by year's end. Here's a look at these special tax identification numbers, who uses them and how to renew or get one if you're not eligible for a Social Security number. Numbers obviously are what the Internal Revenue Service is all about. There are special identification numbers for a variety of tax circumstances. There are earnings amounts and tax code references and line numbers on forms and of, course, identification numbers of both tax professionals and taxpayers that must go on returns. For most individual filers, a Social Security... Read more →


It's Columbus Day. Stop. Before you start with the emails, yes, I know this second Monday in October is a controversial holiday. In recent years, many jurisdictions beyond the federal government have opted to spend today commemorating the original inhabitants of our country. That's why you'll read and hear about Indigenous Peoples' Day events today. pic.twitter.com/l2LymtmS2J — Bobby (@Bobbyobbo) October 14, 2019 But, like it or not, today still is officially Columbus Day, a celebration of Christopher Columbus' accidental discovery of North America. And it's still a federal holiday in the United States. Holiday tax effects: A federal holiday can... Read more →


Attention, tax preparers. Next week is a big one. The filing extension deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 15. Then the very next day, the renewal season opens for paid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) applications and renewals. Also note that while there won't be any requirement to pay a user fee to obtain or renew a PTIN, this likely is the last time that the identification number assignments will be free. Last week, as the U.S. Supreme Court began its new term, the justices decided not to hear the case that reinstated the fees for PTINs. That means the ruling affirming... Read more →


More than a dozen states now provide marketplace options to health care shoppers. And although the federal enrollment mandate and penalty is gone, some states still require their residents to get coverage or pay a price. Plus, federal tax help remains for some seeking medical insurance on their own. The annual employee benefits enrollment period, usually referred to as open season, is underway or about to begin across the country. During these weeks, workers choose from an array of employer-provided and usually tax-favored benefits. I'll be writing more on this shortly. You can read more on the annual benefits selection... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers will be working on their 2018 tax returns this weekend, frantically filling out forms to meet the Oct. 15 filing extension deadline. Some of them will likely take advantage of Free File, the Internal Revenue Service partnership with the tax software industry that allows eligible filers — this year that's those whose adjusted gross income is $66,000 or less — to prepare and electronically file their returns at no cost. Free File came under fire earlier this year when Pro Publica reported that some of the tax prep major players that participate it the program also used... Read more →


I've dealt with bill collectors over the years. Fortunately for me, it's been on behalf of a couple of relatives who found themselves in over their heads financially. Fortunately for my family members, after much — way too much — and often contentious back and forth, we were able to come to a satisfactory resolution. That's why I tend to share former Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson's skepticism about the way that private collection agencies, or PCAs in tax-acronymese, interact with folks who owe taxes. But despite my, Olson's and many others' lingering distrust of these operations, private debt collect is... Read more →


Teslas are the most popular electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States. Creator Elon Musk, however, isn't riding on his EV's laurels. The space exploration and auto impresario says some unusual custom horn sounds are coming. That's right, the honk of your high-dollar Tesla soon could replicate fart and goat noises. That should spark more potential owner interest, although the biggest market for this change, 9-year-old boys, can't drive. Still, Musk knows he needs to do something to keep interest in Teslas high since the EVs no longer qualify for the federal tax credit. Worse, a new report from an... Read more →


You've now got one week, until next Tuesday, Oct. 15, to file your 2018 Form 1040 that you extended earlier this year. During these next seven days, you need to at least get a start on that return. The deadline will be here before you know it. And this time, there's no more time. Here are 9 tips and reminders to help you get that 1040 on its way to the IRS by next week. 1. Gather all your tax material. By now you should have every document you need to file your taxes. Double check. Now. There's no give... Read more →


Relationships, even in the best of circumstances, are hard. When one partner is abusive, then things get untenable. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During this month, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and similar groups are highlighting the victims and survivors, their children and families, their friends and family and their communities that are impacted by domestic violence. More importantly, these organizations are providing assistance and counseling to those in abusive relationships and looking for ways to leave them. Financial as well as physical abuse: While most of us immediately think of physical harm when we hear of... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners have made major strides in recent years in fighting tax-related identity theft. Much of the effort has been in educating taxpayers and businesses about ways to recognize and avoid scams and other tax ID schemes. The IRS also has improved the way it works with taxpayers who do fall victim to identity thieves. Now Uncle Sam is expanding a way that taxpayers can be more proactive in fighting identity theft. The IRS' opt-in Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) now is available for the 2020 tax-filing season to taxpayers in... Read more →


Märzen Oktoberfest beer photo courtesy Kegerator Oktoberfest celebrations are wrapping up here in the German communities of Central Texas, as well as around the rest of the Lone Star State, nation and world. That means we'll all be back to drinking our regular routine beers. What won't change are the federal and state excise taxes collected on brewskis. Tax price of imbibing: It's a notable amount. The Beer Institute says that more than 40 percent of the retail price of beer comes from taxes. A big chunk of that is from the federal alcohol tax of up to 58 cents... Read more →


This is a regular spread in our kitchen, not just on Taco Tuesday or today's National Taco Day. (Kay Bell photo) Today is National Taco Day, which raises a big question here in Texas. Why is there just one specific day celebrating taco consumption? (Corollary question: why isn't it on an alliterative Tuesday?) We Lone Star State residents consume vast quantities of soft and crispy/crunchy tacos multiple times every day, starting with the most important meal of the day, the breakfast taco. Various foodstuffs, various taxes: The day commemorating a Tex-Mex favorite also raises the question among tax geeks about... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service's form revision process isn't quite the red-pencil technique used on text documents, but it gets the job done. The latest group of revised tax forms will affect corporate taxpayers. (Photo via pxhere) Many business taxpayers and their tax advisers are working this week on the Form 1120 returns that that they extended until Oct. 15. Next year, though, these corporate filers will be looking at a new return. The Internal Revenue Service is continuing to tweak a wide variety of returns, many in response the changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The... Read more →


We've yet to see autumn leaves here in Central Texas. It's still too hot and dry. But the arrival of October does bring another seasonal certainty: the Oct. 15 tax deadline. October is here and I've got to say that although it's still early, the month so far is disappointing. Here in Central Texas, by now we're usually enjoying daytime temperatures in the 80s, with overnight lows dropping into the 60s. That typically means our windows are open 24/7 to get full enjoyment of autumn weather. Not in 2019. We're at least 10 degrees higher both days and nights. One... Read more →


Business meals are covered by per diem rates. Business travel entails a variety of expenses. In addition to the costs of getting to your work-related destination, you've got to pay for a place to stay, a rental car if you flew there, meals and incidentals. When you hit the road as an employee, your boss has a couple of options when it comes to reimbursing you. You can collect all your business travel receipts and turn them in with an expense report. Or the company can provide you with a set-per-diem amount. Per diem, from Latin for by day, is... Read more →


No, that's not me. I would be the person face down on my exercise mat next to this woman. (Photo by Stefano Montagner via Flickr) My exercise class instructors are trying to kill me. OK, not exactly and not me specifically, but for all practical purposes I'm on their hit list. My fitness club's new teachers are real feel-the-burn, you-can-do-it types. Plus, due to some recent pressing personal matters, I haven't made it to my regular classes for a while. Now that I'm attending again, my out-of-practice aging body is having a harder time keeping up with the reps. I'm... Read more →