The rate of Americans giving up their citizenship has slowed in the last few years. Are lower taxes a reason for fewer expatriations? Immigration remains at the top of most news lists, especially since the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate both rejected Donald J. Trump's emergency declaration to shift funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall. But the reverse phenomenon of U.S. citizens formally leaving the country forever isn't getting as much attention as it has in the past. Perhaps that's because the number of American expatriates is falling. The Treasury Department on March 12 published its quarterly list of... Read more →


Photo by GotCredit via Flickr CC Most of the focus on tax refunds this year has been on how many people are unpleasantly surprised by how small they are. In many (probably most) cases, the relatively small refunds are because people didn't adjust their payroll withholding last year to account for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes to income tax rates and earnings brackets. Now we have another refund situation that also can be blamed on filers, or actually on nonfilers. Yes, I'm talking about the annual announcement by the Internal Revenue Service that millions of folks who... Read more →


Happy St. Patrick's Day! March 17 is one the top days for beer drinkers, ranking up there with New Year's Eve and Mardi Gras celebrations. Guinness says 13 million pints of its stout will be consumed worldwide today in celebration of the Emerald Isle's patron saint. The average number of drinks is just more than 4 per person. The folks making all the Erin go Bragh toasts and the establishments selling the drinks aren't the only ones celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Here in the United States, all that beer, green or otherwise, and other alcoholic beverages are taxed. Sales tax... Read more →


Nobody likes to owe taxes at filing time. And if you owe too much, you could face added penalties for not having enough money withheld or underpaying estimated taxes throughout the year. But every year, lots of folks find they have to write a check to the U.S. Treasury or set up a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service. The financial technology company SmartAsset.com recently took a look at where the U.S. taxpayers have the biggest tax bills. High plains tax bills: Sorry, Dakotans. You are the unlucky winners. Yep, residents of both South and North and South Dakota... Read more →


If a phone call from someone claiming to be with an official tax office doesn't sound quite right, it's because it's probably a scam call. (Photo by rocketace via Flickr) I'm not a paranoid person. And the only conspiracy theories I've ever paid attention to were the for-entertainment-purposes-only ones promoted on television's The X-Files. But I've got wonder if the tax crooks who are working nonstop to steal our identities and tax refunds also are colluding to troll the Internal Revenue Service. Case in point, the latest tax scam alert from the IRS. Today the tax agency issued a warning... Read more →


I attend fitness classes — OK, mostly yoga and I tend to head into Savasana a bit sooner than most of my fellow yogis — several times a week at my neighborhood club. Most of the members have been there for year and it's got a community feel. Still, I am always amazed at how much personal information folks share about themselves with people they really don't know very well. Many folks, in fact, share stuff albeit unintentionally with total strangers as a recent piece by Kate Klonick for the New York Times alarmingly illustrates. Klonick, who teaches information privacy... Read more →


College and its ever-increasing costs certainly have gotten a lot of attention. There's the group of Democrats seeking their party's 2020 presidential nomination. Obviously spurred by the enthusiastic supporters of Independent-turned-temporary-Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders and his promise of free college, many other White House wannabes also are talking up educational assistance. Then there's this week's Operation Varsity Blues. You might not have caught the name, but let me drop two others to spur recognition: Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Yeah, that's the name federal investigators gave to their take down of a far-reaching college admissions scheme. Wealthy parents, elite school... Read more →


Rep. Mike Thompson opens a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing into temporary tax policy, aka tax extenders. (Screenshot from official hearing video via YouTube) House tax writers have finally, officially looked at expired tax provisions, known popularly as extenders. But anyone hoping for a quick resolution or an indication that the many now-dead tax breaks might be revived by the April filing deadline was disappointed. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee, opened today's (March 12) hearing by making it clear that right now, his panel simply is examining the basis for creating... Read more →


The White House's fiscal year 2020 budget proposal was delivered to Capitol Hill today. (Screenshot from AP video via USA Today) The Trump White House today released its fiscal 2020 budget request. The annual fiscal request for money is a month later than usual this year because of the 35-day government shutdown. In his latest budget proposal, Donald J. Trump asks for $8.6 billion for the border wall. He's also calling for spending cuts of $2.7 trillion, the largest proposed reduction ever by an administration. The math involved also is monumental. The budget forecasts trillion-dollar deficits for four straight years,... Read more →


Lee County, Alabama, March 3 tornado damage. (Photo: Nicholas Baretto via Twitter) As expected, once the White House declared parts of Alabama a major disaster area, the Internal Revenue Service followed up by offering affected residents a variety of tax relief. Victims of the deadly tornadoes and severe storms that raked areas of the Yellowhammer State now have until July 31 to file some individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. "With the regular deadline just a few weeks away, we want storm victims to focus on their families and recovering, rather than worrying about the tax... Read more →


Even with a new, shorter Form 1040 in use for filing our 2018 returns, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that it will take, on average, a taxpayer 11 hours to file taxes. This time frame includes ancillary tasks like sorting through tax records, planning tax moves and filling out and submitting a complete return. Those hours also take into account dealing with all the associated forms and schedules, of which there are six new ones that now apply to just the revamped 1040, you'll have to deal with to meet your annual tax-filing responsibility. It's no wonder so many of... Read more →


Part of today's International Women's Day celebrations are for the continuing employment advances by women. Our 21st century progress is due in large part to the pivotal roles of female employees in traditionally male jobs, like this woman machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1942. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons) Back in 2017 when Congress was formulating the comprehensive tax law changes that would become the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the #MeToo movement was in full force, shining a light on the prevalence of sexual assault. As the TCJA... Read more →


R. Kelly performing in in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as part of his 2006 "Mr. Show Biz Presents: The Light it Up Tour. (Photo by Nicholas Ballasy via Wikipedia Commons) Singer-songwriter R. Kelly is (once again) facing serious criminal charges, but a more common complaint is what has landed him in jail. The 52-year-old R&B singer was arrested March 6 after a court hearing that he failed to pay more than $161,000 in back child support. (Update: Kelly was released from jail on March 9 after making the overdue support payments.) Incarceration for failure to meet court-ordered family payments happens... Read more →


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 →