My mother and my furry little brother Willie having a conversation. While walking Willie last October, my mom fell and broke her leg, a common occurrence among older dog owners. That accident has prompted ongoing discussions (OK, fights) on possible more hands-on care options for my octogenarian mother. (Photo by Kay Bell) I'm a cat person. Fight me. Or don't. Like cats, I'm not really concerned about your pet opinion. For almost a decade, though, I've been dealing with a dog. Not mine. My mom's. She has a dog, Willie, and he's the most spoiled animal I have ever known.... Read more →


Michael Cohen makes his opening statement before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 27, 2019. (C-SPAN video screenshot) We have a complicated relationship with money, particularly when it comes to divulging details about it in our personal lives. Few of us (outside of personal finance bloggers) want to say how much we make. We tend to be vague, saying we're doing fine or perhaps going as far as to say things like "in the high five figures." We're a little more forthcoming when it comes to taxes, especially when we get tax refunds or don't, as recent social media complaints... Read more →


Some of the destruction from a tornado, preliminary estimated to be an EF-4 with winds reaching 170 mph, that touched down on March 3, 2019, in Lee County, Alabama. (Photo courtesy National Weather Service, Birmingham via Twitter) Mother Nature showed her extremely mean side this weekend, with tornadoes in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and the Florida panhandle leaving a path of death and destruction. I know that folks just now getting a good look at the havoc are not in a mood to think about taxes. That's especially true of those in who lost loved ones when a twister roared... Read more →


The King by Kevin Pluck via Flickr We thought we wanted you March, but your "in like lion" approach this year is way too fierce. Severe weather roared through the south today, with a rash of tornadoes claiming lives and destroying property. Meanwhile, a serious winter storm is heading to the northeast, making March's appearance more like a snow leopard than a lion. The only good thing about this early spate of destructive weather is that it reminds us all to be ready for natural disasters. They happen year-round. And under the new tax law, you can claim any damages... Read more →


I admit it, as a native Texan I get a kick out of this depiction of Lone Star State residents' skewed point of view of the United States. Click the image for a larger view of the map, which was part of a calendar I bought at Marfa Book Company while revisiting my West Texas roots a few years ago. Here on the ol' blog, I tend to focus on federal tax filings. That's because almost all of us at some point in our lives have to file paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service. But there also are state, and... Read more →


It's taken a few weeks, four to be exact, but the 2019 tax season is finally catching up. The latest Internal Revenue Service filing season statistics show that while most categories that the agency tracks each filing season are still lagging 2018 figures, the differences are starting to shrink. And there's even better news for folks who are getting refunds. The average check amounts issued through Feb. 22 are dramatically larger than the week before. More notable, those average refund amounts have finally topped the averages of year ago. Unpleasant tax refund surprises: In case you haven't been following the... Read more →


That's me in mid-February doing my personal Groundhog Day shadow prediction that warm weather was back to stay. (The full image is on my Instagram page.) I was sooooo wrong. A couple of weeks ago, ecstatic over the return of warm weather and sunshine to Central Texas, I celebrated the arrival of spring. Was I ever wrong. Today is cold, wet — I swear it was sleeting when I ran to my car this morning after yoga class! — and downright dreary. And it's only supposed to get worse, with local meteorologists predicting the latest hard freeze ever for the... Read more →


I know February is the shortest month, but we sure seemed to blast right through these 28 days. That means folks who were waiting for their refunds based on Earned Income Tax Credit and/or additional child tax credit claims now or soon should have those U.S. Treasury checks. As for the rest of us who've yet to tackle our 1040s, we're part of the reason that filing is a bit slow this year. Many of us are waiting because we either know we'll owe or we're still trying to decipher the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes. The good... Read more →


The only thing worse than not getting the refund you expected is waiting for it to arrive. The Internal Revenue Service's official goal is to issue refunds within 21 days after processing the returns that produced them. But if you e-file and opt for direct deposit, the IRS says it's generally able to get most refunds — 9 out of 10 — out to recipients well before the end of that three-week time frame. Mandated delay done: There's also good news for folks whose refunds are associated with their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or additional child tax credit claims.... Read more →


The 2019 tax filing season appears, so far, to be thankfully free of tax scams. Maybe it's because things are going a bit more slowly, either due to the many tax law changes, the lengthy government shutdown that preceded it or a combination of both. I hate to be a buzzkill, but this early filing season respite is probably the best we can hope for. Tax realists know that crooks are still out there, planning and/or implanting their schemes to steal taxpayer identities and file fake returns to get fraudulent refunds. Scams increase as tax deadline nears: That concern is... Read more →


A crowdfunding effort to raise money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has ended, but some folks still want to contribute. The debate on an expansive U.S.-Mexico wall (or similar structures) continues, in Washington, D.C., as well as across the country. The top issue right now is money to pay for any barriers along the United States' southern border. Donald J. Trump has declared the situation a national emergency, which his administration says would free up a total of $8 billion for the campaign-promised project. Opposition to the wall and Trump's workaround to pay for it has received... Read more →


Some worry that smaller refunds will be a drag on our consumer-driven economy. There's a smidgen of good data news for the Internal Revenue Service. One category the tax agency tracks each filing season has moved into positive territory for 2019. For the week ending Feb. 15, the number of returns that were prepared and submitted directly by taxpayers hit 21.77 million. That was 18,000 more than the third week of the 2018 filing season, or a 0.1 percent increase from last year. Yay all y'all folks who plugged in your tax data on your own and hit send. Unfortunately,... Read more →


Do you overwithhold to get an annual tax refund because money burns a hole in your pocket? (Photo by Matthew via Flickr) It's no secret that Americans like their tax refunds. The Internal Revenue Service for years has reported that most filers get at least some money back at tax-filing time. That refund data has fueled another annual debate. How to get people to adjust their withholding so that they get use of their money throughout the year in paychecks instead of having to wait for it in the form or a tax refund. As a tax journalist, I get... Read more →


Prior year tax returns serve many purposes. This filing season, a check of last year's return will show you what your tax liability for 2017 was. You can compare that to your final 2018 tax bill to see if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did indeed lower your taxes even though your refund this year was smaller. You'll also need past year tax data if you're applying for a major loan, such as a mortgage. And if you're electronically filing your tax return this year, you'll need data from your previous year's taxes to complete that task. Record... Read more →


Tax law change confusion and paycheck withholding miscalculations have led to a lot of grumbling by many filers about the size of their tax refund checks. But there are other reasons why refunds sometimes are not what filers expect. Here's what to do if you think your tax refund is wrong. The many changes of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) have thrown a wrench into the 2019 tax filing season. Many folks who were expecting refunds are finding they are smaller than they anticipated or nonexistent. In a lot of cases, that's because of changes in withholding by... Read more →


Screenshot from a look at some of the people who depend on the gig economy. Watch the full YouTube video here. Everybody is looking for more money. Taxpayers want more in their tax refunds, especially those surprised by smaller amounts this filing season. Donald J. Trump wants more to build his campaigned-promised border wall. People who are unhappy with their current earnings are side hustling to get more income. It's that last group, says the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), that the Internal Revenue Service should be focusing on as a way to get more money into the... Read more →


Most of us who've ever worked for someone else are very familiar with Internal Revenue Service Form W-2. This is the statement you get early every year to tell you how much you were paid. Your W-2 also reports the amount of income tax withheld at both federal and, where applicable, state and/or local levels. There also are details on such things as the amount of tax-deferred money went into or you took out of your 401(k), how much your employer paid for your health care coverage and how much help you got from the boss in paying for care... Read more →


Today technically is George Washington's Birthday, but we've come to call it Presidents Day in honor of all our commanders in chief, like these four greats on Mount Rushmore National Memorial. (Image courtesy Mount Rushmore Facebook page) How are you celebrating George Washington's birthday? Yep, that's what today officially is, despite all the Presidents Day sale signs in retailers' windows. Technically, America's first president was born on Feb. 22, 1731. However, since 1971 we've celebrated his arrival day on the third Monday of his birth month thanks to a law that took effect that year mandating most federal holidays be... Read more →


NASCAR's 2019 season started today with the auto racing series' biggest event, the Daytona 500. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing for taking the checkered flag in the Great American Race. Things aren't so clear-cut, though for the expired tax break for motorsports speedway improvements and more than two dozen other assorted tax benefits. These tax breaks expired in 2017 and are not on track for reinstatement. Yet. In fact, they're looking as messy as today's closing laps pile-up. Extenders indecision: These assorted tax breaks are known collectively as the extenders. They get that name because they are... Read more →


There's better news for taxpayers this week. Internal Revenue Service data for the second week of the 2019 tax filing season shows a slightly larger refund amount. When the IRS released its first-week data, which covered 2018 tax returns filed by Feb. 1, the number of 1040s submitted and processed, as well as the number of refunds and average amount of those fewer checks, were dramatically lower than at the same time last year. That led to much grumbling by filers and arguments among supporters and opponents of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) about how the major tax... Read more →