Tax Tip Feed

As the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history drags on with no end in sight, furloughed workers are looking at any and all ways to pay their bills. Some have taken hardship withdrawals from their workplace retirement accounts. Thousands of others have applied for unemployment. Few of us can blame folks who are struggling financially for taking these steps. At some point, many of us or our family members and friends have done the same. There's no shame in taking available help when bills you can't pay continue to arrive. And while such actions can help out-of-work folks make... Read more →


Longest U.S. federal government shutdown in history be damned! That's apparently the Internal Revenue Service's motto this year. It announced last week that it will start working on our 2018 tax returns — and issue any related refunds — this filing season, which is set to start on Monday, Jan. 28, even if it's technically still operating in modified shutdown mode. The IRS underscored that commitment on Friday, Jan. 11, when it announced that taxpayers who qualify to use Free File can now access the online no-cost tax preparation and e-filing option. Yep. Free File 2019 is now open for... Read more →


Today should be payday for hundreds of thousands of federal government workers. The partial government shutdown, however, means they're not getting their money. And even though the White House, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service say that the 2019 filing season will open at the end of January as it has in years past and that refunds will be issued, there's no guarantee that things will go smoothly. We are, after all, talking about Uncle Sam's operations. Can IRS meet refund challenge? The IRS says it will recall "a significant portion" of its currently furloughed workforce to open tax season... Read more →


It's that time of year again, tax season. OK, not officially, especially since we're waiting for Congress and the White House to reach a deal that will end the partial government shutdown and let the Internal Revenue Service resume operations at full speed again. But we taxpayers can't afford to wait on the politicians. We know that we still have to file our taxes, even it we end up having to wait on the IRS to process our returns. Yeah, I know. Not fair. But c'est la tax laws. To make sure that we stay on track, I'll again be... Read more →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


Contributing to a 529 plan is one tax move you need to work into your hectic year-end holiday schedule since most states require you do so by Dec. 31 in order to claim associated state tax benefits on your next tax return. We're almost halfway through December. Are you feeling the holiday crunch? Sorry, but I'm here to add to it. As I've already nagged suggested back in November and earlier this month, you need to take care of some year-end tax tasks, too. One of those tax moves — contributing to a youngster's 529 plan — is worth another... Read more →


Welcome to a new week, another seven days for cyber criminals to try to steal your personal, financial and tax information. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners in state tax departments and the tax world's private sector spent five days alerting us to potential tax identity theft schemes and ways to ensure we don't fall victim. Unfortunately, we need to be aware of the dangers of online tax and financial crime every single day of the year, not just for one designated week. That's why today I'm recapping the National Tax Security Awareness Week warnings.... Read more →


If you have a medical flexible spending account, or FSA, one of the key year-end tasks you need to take care of this month is ensuring that you don't lose any of this tax-free money. Yes, some employers give workers a 2½-month grace period, until March 15, to use the prior year's FSA funds. Others let their workers roll over up to $500 left in their medical accounts. Both of those options are at the discretion of the companies offering the tax-favored benefit. A lot of companies, however, still just take advantage of the use it or lose it rule.... Read more →


Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days. But e-commerce platform Shopify Plus says cyber shoppers this December are expected to spend $7 billion more than they did in November. Crooks also are well aware of the increase in online shopping as Christmas nears. It's the perfect time for them to try to snag financial account information, Social Security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data they can use to steal individuals' identities. In the short term, cybercriminals can turn the stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards or creating new... Read more →


Truman the cat guarding presents under the Christmas tree. (Photo by Shawn Kinkade via Flickr CC) Ho, Ho, Ho, Happy Holidays! December is here. Time to decorate and, most importantly, get cracking on those gift lists. If you're not into frantic, crowd-fighting, last-minute shopping trips, here are five easy tax-related gifts for just about everyone on your nice list, including yourself. 1. Give to your favorite charities. You're probably already well aware of this option, since nonprofits have been sending out year-end donation solicitations since Halloween. Their urgency can be forgiven a bit more this year because of the tax... Read more →


This is the first in a 10-part series on the upcoming 2019 tax year inflation adjustments. Links to additional tax-related inflation changes for next tax year are at this end of this article. It's the most wonderful time of the year. And while, confession time, I have been watching a lot of Hallmark holiday movies, I'm talking today about the overlap of one tax year and the approaching one. As the annual count of days winds down, we taxpayers must pay attention to ways to cut our current tax year's bill as well as make some initial plans to keep... Read more →


Don't let tax turkeys gobble up your money. Make these tax moves, a couple of which are related to recent tax reform, this November and for sure by the end of 2018. South Park turkeys via Giphy It's November! The start of the holiday season. Time to get into the festive spirit with some year-end tax moves. "Whoa! Wait! What the what are you thinking?" you say. "I'm still adjusting to Standard Time and already have a huge to-do list to make sure my family has the perfect Thanksgiving. Then as soon as that's over, I've got to start with... Read more →


Texas, according to veteran Lone Star State meteorologists, is the land of perennial drought, broken by the occasional devastating flood. Such flooding occurred today, opening up the possibility that parts of the Texas Hill Country could be deemed major disaster areas. If that happens, affected property owners can claim their losses on their tax returns. Mansfield dam image Excessive rainfall has produced devastating flooding in Central Texas, forcing area officials to open floodgates at local dams. The amount of water flowing into area rivers and lakes is so heavy that even Mansfield Dam in Austin, the structure that holds back... Read more →