Hello 2019! I'm not sure we're ready for you, particularly when it comes to the major tax code changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). We'll deal with the real-life effects of the new tax laws for the first time when we file our 2018 returns. When that will be is still up in the air and depends on a resolution to the partial government shutdown. But even though Capitol Hill and many of Uncle Sam's offices remain in limbo, we taxpayers need to start now taking an up close and personal look at what the TCJA will... Read more →


While millions of folks worldwide were greeting 2019's arrival, many were awaiting a more personal welcome for the planet's newest residents. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than 395,000 children will be born today, Jan. 1, 2019. There's always much to-do over babies who arrive right after midnight on New Year's Day. Much-needed tax breaks for parents: But for tax purposes, as long as a child is born or adopted any time during a tax year, be it on the first day or Dec. 31, the youngster could mean tax benefits for the new parents. Those tax... Read more →


Change is the only constant, as the old saying goes, and that's as true on the last day of the year as it is on the first. Those changes also could mean changes to your taxes, as some life-altering situations on Dec. 31 affect your taxes for the preceding 364 days. Take, for example, tying the knot. If you get married today, congratulations. Have a spectacular combined wedding reception and New Year's Eve party. Also get ready after the confetti and toasts to deal with some filing changes to your 2018 taxes. Your new Dec. 31 husband or wife status... Read more →


There's one more day in 2018, but it's too late to adjust your withholding for this almost over tax year. Following enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a lot of folks earlier this year should have tweaked the amount of federal taxes they have taken out of their paychecks. Those TCJA changes, which went into full effect for 2018, could mean some — OK, a lot; one estimate says 30 million — taxpayers could face an unexpected tax bill when they file their returns in 2019. If you discover in a few months that you're one of... Read more →


The Dallas Cowboys, in white uniforms during a game with Detroit at Jerry World a few years ago, are heading back to the NFL playoffs. The Pokes last won a post-season game in 1996, when they ultimately won Super Bowl XXX. Will they change their dismal playoff run in 2019? (Photo by Kay Bell) National Football League fans in Texas are pretty happy this final regular season game weekend. Both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys will play the post-season, with the Pokes actually winning their division. Go figure. I haven't been paying as close attention to the NFL this... Read more →


Yes, I know I've been a bit fixated the last few days on charitable giving. But it is Christmas week, the traditional time of giving gifts, which also coincides with nonprofits' annual year-end quest for more money. Those solicitations are more intense this year as charities are dealing with the potentially costly effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which some analysts worry could cost them billions in donations. Standard increase could cut into charitable gifts: The new tax law essentially doubled the standard deduction amounts. That means more folks are likely to claim the standard deduction instead... Read more →


Yes, I'll get to the tax moves to make by Dec. 31. Keep reading. But first I've just got to vent about some confusing year-end tax move info making the television and internet rounds. There's a tax feature that I've seen twice on local television and a couple of times online as a video with accompanying text and it's driving me crazy! It's about purportedly tax-saving moves to make in the last few days of 2018. Good idea. Confusing information. Specifically, one of the points is about charitable giving, which long-time readers know I'm a big fan of from both... Read more →


Dec. 26 is known as Boxing Day in many countries around the world. These cats definitely have embraced the spirit if not the full meaning of this unofficial, at least in the United States, holiday. Our feline also was a big fan of cardboard containers on the day after Christmas and any day of the year that a box of any size appeared. Big cats enjoy boxes, too, but as my Tumbling Taxes post shows they exhibit their enthusiasm in slightly different ways than their smaller cousins. As a lover of cats, be they large or small or domesticated (as... Read more →


I hope you're having wonderful holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas for religious reasons or secularly. I've bounced between the two motivation over the years, usually tending toward the 'tis the season for joy and goodwill for all. However, every December I do put out our Nativity. Yep, that's it pictured above, our Raku pottery depiction complete with a photograph of a Texas sunset, Lone Star State star, Zapotec textile background and Mexican folk-art armadillo joining the usual stable animals. Universal, time-honored tale: Church doctrine aside, I love the story of Jesus' birth and what it tells us about handling difficult... Read more →


Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 classic "Miracle on 34th Street") gets in a little sleigh practice at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Santa Claus is already hard at work, according to the Christmas specialists at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, who are tracking his gift deliveries. (Yes, they're on the job despite the federal government's partial shutdown.) Santa's travels during this 24 hours of dropping off gifts for good girls and boys means he will travel around 212 million miles around the globe. As a small business owner, that's a lot of tax-deductible mileage — presuming that... Read more →


I'm getting a lot of feedback about the partial government shutdown, specifically about the pay status of Internal Revenue Service (and other federal) personnel who will report to work next week and those who are furloughed. More than 420,000 federal employees who will work will do so without pay, according to a report from the Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The additional 380,000 furloughed workers head home to wait out the closure, again without pay. Those 800,000 or so federal employees earn this week's By the Numbers honors. Many folks objected to my description in recent government shutdown blog... Read more →


We're now into the third shutdown of federal offices this year. The other two were brief closures back in January and February. Will this latest federal government shutdown, which began at midnight today (Saturday, Dec. 22) be similarly short-lived? Maybe, but closure #3 of 2018 already is the longest of the year, with the January shutdown lasting three days and the one in early February technically shutting federal doors for just a few hours. Nothing is expected to happen until after Christmas. Some are predicting the impasse will continue into the new year. And Donald J. Trump has vowed that... Read more →


Tax refund delivery isn't the only tax function that likely would be delayed if the federal government is shut down for an appreciable length of time. Tax audits, or examinations at the Internal Revenue Service calls them, also will be sidelined if fewer agency employees are at work. A lot of folks say that's not a problem. I get it. Nobody likes tax audits, even — maybe especially — when you haven't intentionally done anything wrong with your tax filing. But audits are a key component of taxpayer compliance. Why audits are important: The rationale for auditing returns comes from... Read more →


Will the Internal Revenue Service have to operate short-handed during the coming tax-filing season? Maybe. It's looking more like a government shutdown will happen after the White House rejection of the Senate-approved continuing resolution to keep all of Uncle Same's offices operating. (IRS Washington, D.C., headquarters photo by David Boeke via Flickr CC) The Internal Revenue Service is among the federal agencies awaiting full fiscal year (FY) funding. When I woke up this morning, it looked like Uncle Sam's tax collector would get his money. A short-term funding deal was on its way to passage, having cleared the Senate last... Read more →


Electronic gadgets are on a lot of Dear Santa lists. If you're planning to play the Jolly Old Elf and get a family member or friend a phone, tablet, speaker or TV that depends mobile reception, also might want to slip a few extra bucks into the gift recipient's stocking. They'll need it to cover the taxes, fees and governmental surcharges on wireless services that have increased dramatically. Wireless service costs drop, but taxes increase: A typical American household with four wireless phones paying $100 per month for taxable wireless service can expect to pay about $229 per year in... Read more →


The foundation run by Donald J. Trump and his family is being dissolved. That announcement today from the New York Attorney General's office also noted that it will continue pursuing its lawsuit against the Trump Foundation. In case you haven't been following this story, the Empire State's top law enforcement officer alleges that the First Family's foundation "functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's interests." The White House contends this is just another politically motivated attack. We'll let this fight be hashed out via the legal system and voters. But today's news, which comes at the... Read more →


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 →