Leonardo DiCaprio living the rich life in a scene from The Great Gatsby. (Film publicity photo courtesy Warner Bros.) The hubby and I are of that age where we're thinking about our estate plan. I know, financial planners say that every age is a good one to think about your estate. Planning helps you accumulate it, not just decide where it goes after you're gone. Still, most people, rightly or wrongly, don't tend to think about their estates until they get older. One thing a lot of us won't have to worry about, at least not if we shuffle off... Read more →


Casper, with almost 58,000 residents, is the second-largest city in Wyoming. Despite having few metropolitan areas, the Cowboy State again reigns as the place with the best business tax climate. (Photo by Adbay via Wikipedia Commons) The focus on the economy tends to be national. But businesses and consumers deal with the economic — and tax — conditions of 50 different states and the District of Columbia. Each year, the Tax Foundation takes a look at those various and varying economies and issues its State Business Tax Climate Index. The annual analysis, says the Washington, D.C.-based tax think tank, provides... Read more →


How many email and snail mail charity solicitations have you received in the last couple of weeks? In our real and virtual mailboxes, it's already nearing 100. Yes, the end-of-year donation season is shifting into high gear. Unfortunately, that also means that criminals will be trying to take advantage of people's generous tendencies. Such nefarious attempts are why this week the Internal Revenue Service is participating in the second annual International Charity Fraud Awareness Week (ICFAW). ICFAW is led by a coalition of over 40 charities, regulators, law enforcers, representative bodies and other not-for-profit stakeholders. Awareness is key to stopping... Read more →


Reduced salt isn't just an issue for road safety or healthier diets. It's a contentious part of the Republican tax reform law. UPDATED, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, at 4:45 p.m. Many U.S. homeowners who each year face increased property taxes tend to hate the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The Republican tax reform law, whose provisions largely took effect with 2018 tax year, has limited their ability to fully deduct their big local real estate tax bills on their federal tax returns. Senate Democrats today tried to repeal the Internal Revenue Service regulation that undercut state efforts to salvage... Read more →


The hubby and I got to see the Astros receive their 2017 MLB championship rings back in April 2018. Our fingers and toes are crossed this week for a repeat of that World Series outcome and another trip to Houston for a second ring ceremony. (Photo by Kay Bell) The 2019 World Series starts tonight and the best pitcher in Major League Baseball right now will be on the mound. The good news for me and other Astros fans is that that righthander, Gerrit Cole, is on our team. The bad news for me and other Astros fans is that... Read more →


Nome, Alaska, is one of the cities in The Last Frontier that collects a local sales tax. The state's Gold Rush city is among the municipalities that will be able to unite under a new plan to collect sales taxes on online purchases. (Image: Wikipedia Commons) Alaska is known in the tax world as the only state that has no income or sales tax. The key word here, though, is state. The Last Frontier's local jurisdictions are allowed to levy local sales taxes. These tax-collecting communities now have a plan to work together to collect tax on online sales. Creation... Read more →


Using taxes to try to shape people's actions is not new. A British monarch tried it back in 1678 with a beard tax. In modern times, governments worldwide have focused on sin taxes that typically are applied to things that aren't healthy, like cigarettes, fatty foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. One of the so-called soda taxes was approved by Philadelphia in 2016. It took effect on Jan. 1 of the next year, adding a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax to not just Cokes, as we Texans refer to all sodas, but also to sugary beverages like bottled and canned iced tea and sports drinks.... Read more →


Nestor, show in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image above as it gathered steam yesterday (Oct. 18) in the Gulf of Mexico, moved today closer to the Florida panhandle. The good news is that Nestor is now a post-tropical storm. That designation change, however, doesn't mean this 14th named storm of the 2019 hurricane season is harmless. As Nestor moves inland across the southeastern United States, it is projected to bring heavy rains and associated flooding, coastal surges and severe thunderstorms, some with tornadoes. Meanwhile, in the northeastern part of the county, a large bomb cyclone wreaked havoc.... Read more →


Taxpayers and tax professionals alike are breathing a sigh this week. The final tax extension Oct. 15 filing deadline has come and gone. Sure, there's some cleanup left. The storing of files. The adjusting of withholding where tax bills were larger or smaller than expected. And, yes, the waiting for refunds by procrastinating filers who weren't in a hurry to get their tax cash. It does happen. Chances are, however, that the Internal Revenue Service isn't sending out many refunds this month. I'm not just saying that because most October filers don't get refunds. I'm basing my expectation on recently... Read more →


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 →