How Texans see the United States. Each new year brings hope. A flip of the calendar pages, and the suddenly clean slate, at least metaphorically, means better things ahead are possible for us personally, professionally, financially and, of course, on the tax front (taxically, which spellcheck wants to change to toxically…). When it comes to taxes, the goal every year is to pay less. While we're still working under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes at the federal level, we still see some changes in 2020. Notably, especially when it comes to our always hoped for lower tax... Read more →


via GIPHY If you used your car for business purposes last year, you probably did the same thing I did on New Year's Eve. You took a quick look at your auto's odometer and jotted down the miles. Keeping track of your annual miles driven and those specifically attributable to business travel can help you reduce taxes on your self-employment income. There are a couple of ways you can track this travel, either by keeping good records of your actual business-related auto usage (more on this in a minute) or by claiming the optional standard mileage amount. That standard amount... Read more →


The countdown is on! In a few hours, 2019 will be outta here and we'll be celebrating a brand spanking New Year. But if you want to celebrate a less costly tax bill when you file your 2019 return in 2020, you've got to make some year-end moves now. Here's a collection of my latest posts on tax tasks with a Dec. 31 deadline. 10 year-end tax moves to make now — My first nag list of end of 2019 tax moves from Nov. 4 10 December tax presents for you instead of the IRS — Another nag reminder on... Read more →


Last year, some tax software companies allegedly hid their Free File option on their corporate websites, instead sending otherwise eligible free filers to paid products. That won't happen again, says the IRS, under a new Free File agreement that was just signed and takes effect for the upcoming 2020 tax-filing season. The only thing people like more than getting their annual tax refunds is getting things for free. The IRS says that this coming tax-filing season, its new agreement with tax software companies will help ensure that eligible taxpayers will know that they can combine those loves via Free File.... Read more →


One of the hallmarks of the Trump Administration is tariffs, either put in place or threatened, on a variety of imported goods. If you have money in the stock market, you're probably pretty happy with 2019. Despite some blips, the market this year maintained its continued upward march. The positive news for investors, however, goes against conventional wisdom that tariffs are bad for the economy. Wall Street bulls say that tariffs eventually will take their toll. And others, including a pair of Federal Reserve economists, cite evidence that tariffs already are costing jobs and hiking prices. No tariff trouble for... Read more →


I don't know who came up with all these holidays in quick succession at the end of each year, but that person needs to be fired. We, and by we I mean U.S. residents since Canadians are smarter about Thanksgiving's timing, have a lot of special days in the last calendar quarter. Holiday avalanche: It starts in mid-October with Columbus Day, still one of 10 federal holidays recognized by Uncle Sam, although many areas now celebrate that Monday as Indigenous Peoples' Day. At the end of the month, we have Halloween and, depending on your heritage or geography, Dia de... Read more →


Paying property tax bills by Dec. 31 used to be a surefire way for many filers to bump up their Schedule A deductions enough to make itemizing more advantageous than using the standard deduction. That's no longer the case thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). In addition to capping state and local real estate tax deductions at $10,000, the tax reform bill also nearly doubled prior tax law's standard amounts. So fewer folks are worrying about paying tax bills that may be due later, like the end of next January here in the Austin area, by year's... Read more →


Some of the Christmas cookies the hubby and I make and decorate. Yes, we over-bake. And yes, we slather on the sugary icing and decorations because the mainly sugar and butter cookies themselves are not fattening enough. Gotta keep Santa (and friends, family and ourselves) happy! Was Santa apparently full by the time he got to your house, leaving you with some extra Christmas cookies? No worries, even if you're low on milk … or are lactose intolerant. All the adults in your household can loosen their belts and finish off those goodies with a brew or two. Sugar and... Read more →


Merry Christmas! Here's hoping you were good enough this year to get at least some of the things you asked Santa to place under your tree last night. Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 classic "Miracle on 34th Street") gets in a little sleigh practice at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. St. Nick delivered for the hubby and me. We got our wish for a quiet Christmas. But I did want to pop in and offer holiday greetings to all the ol' blog's readers. If, since you stopped by, you do want some tax info (or just a break from... Read more →


Merry Christmas Eve to all who celebrate this late December holiday. I must confess that, despite my grandmother's and, to a slightly lesser degree, my mother's best efforts, I love Christmas for mainly secular reasons. I love the lights, especially the gaudy, multicolored ones that glow and flash. I love the ornaments, particularly the kitschy ones that remind me of special times, events and people. And, of course, there are the presents. Over the years I've enjoyed more than my fair share of delightfully packaged goodies. But I've also come to realize that I like searching for, finding and giving... Read more →


"Do nothing" has long been the derisive descriptor attached to the U.S. Congress. Actually, though, the House and Senate could more accurately be described as a legislative body that does things that don't have any chance of becoming law. That's the case most recently with a bill that would eliminate, at least temporarily, the $10,000 cap on tax deductible state and local taxes, referred to by the acronym SALT. Cutting SALT in the tax diet: The House last week narrowly passed, by a 218 to 206 margin, H.R. 5377, dubbed the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act. The... Read more →


Congress played Santa this week, averting a government shutdown and approving a wide variety of anticipated tax breaks. Merry Christmas U.S. taxpayers. H.R. 1865, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, is now law. In a surprise move earlier this month, House and Senate negotiators cobbled together a massive bill that not only, as the name indicates, assures that the federal government stays open, but which also included some long-awaited (at least by those who will benefit) expired tax provisions. In addition, lawmakers corrected — and by corrected, I mean repealed — some obvious — and by obvious, I mean universally... Read more →


Christmas is next week! So of course you're thinking about filing your 2019 tax return. Maybe not this coming week. But you will soon. And when you do think about it, if you're like most U.S. taxpayers, you'll use tax software. E-filing encouraged: The Internal Revenue Service encourages us — and in the case of most paid tax preparers, requires — to use the tax preparation programs and accompanying electronic filing option. We follow those prompts and pushes. This year, more than 138 million returns were e-filed. That was almost 89 percent of all the 1040s and other annual returns... Read more →


Lots of folks will be heading home for the holidays in the next few days. For many, it will the first time they've seen family in a while. Enjoy! These get-togethers also are a great opportunity for adult children of aging parents to make sure, tactfully and discreetly, that Mom and Dad are still doing well and are able to continue living on their own. If you find that you do need to make some changes when it comes to care for older relatives, do your due diligence. Not only could your decisions affect their physical and mental well-being, but... Read more →


December is, for the most part, a festive month. The holidays and all that accompanies them, from songs to movies to the joy of youngsters and young at heart, bring out the best in most of us. But things aren't quite so bright and jolly for everyone. Despite an economic recovery that's lifted people out of poverty in most areas of the country, poverty increased in at least one county in every state between 2016 and 2018. The poverty rate — defined as the percentage of people in households earning less than the current $25,750 threshold for a family of... Read more →


Sometimes it feels like you need an advanced mathematics degree to do tax calculations. The IRS seeks to ease some of that math frustration for employers with a new online withholding assistant. (Photo by Kim Manley Ort via Flickr CC) It's been two years since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) because law, but folks are still adjusting to its many changes. One area that's still a stumbling block is withholding. The first year that TCJA's lower tax rates and adjusted income brackets were in place, some folks unexpectedly owed taxes at filing time. In most cases, that was... Read more →


Congress just came up with more tax breaks to wind down 2019 than the number of ornaments we have on our upstairs' mini Christmas tree! (Photo by Kay Bell) Congress finally decorated its Christmas tree early this morning. The ornaments were myriad tax breaks. Or, in some cases, elimination of taxes. With Dec. 25 bearing down and special interest groups sending more requests to Capitol Hill than kiddos' letters to Santa, the House and Senate negotiators finally agreed on, among other things, what to do about those expired tax provisions popularly known as extenders. They OK'ed a handful of them... Read more →


If you moved this year and rely on the U.S. Postal Service for your interactions with the Internal Revenue Service, make sure that agency (among others) is on your list of those who are informed of your new address. I've always been a fan a snail mail. I know. OK, boomer. And December is my favorite month for good old U.S. Postal Service deliveries. I like thumbing through the colorful holiday catalogs, even if I do order online when I find a gift that would be perfect for a friend, family member or myself. I also love the annul batch... Read more →


Greek street market vendors offer just about everything. (Photo: Travels with Gerri-Travellerspoint) Every day, more Americans go digital, at least partially, when comes to their finances. We pay via our smartphone features and apps. Our paychecks or gig earnings are directly deposited. Even the Internal Revenue Service is nudging (and sometimes shoving) us to handle our tax tasks electronically. But we are nowhere near where Greece is going. That Mediterranean country, the one that's been on the financial edge or over it for years, now is forcing its residents to use electronic transactions equal to around a third of their... Read more →


Quick email question for you. Are you getting more online sale announcements or more requests to donate to good causes? It's close in my inbox, but charitable solicitations seem to be winning. That's not really a surprise. I'm not much of a shopper, in real life or online, so I don't generate enough of a cookie trail for e-tailers to follow. Plus, in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes, charities are making concerted efforts to encourage donors. That means every nonprofit to which I've given over the years, as well as the groups they sold... Read more →