This is skbell1's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following skbell1's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
skbell1
Native Texan, professional journalist, tax geek.
Interests: leafs, go!), crossword puzzles<br>cats<br>music, especially jazz and texas-based and/or inspired singers, songwriters and tunes<br>movies, especially independent and foreign films<br>birding<br>sci-fi (films, television and books and short stories)<br>dallas cowboys (still america's team)<br>houston astros (2005 nl champs!)<br>nhl hockey (go
Recent Activity
Image
If you're looking for a job to boost your holiday spending budget, the Internal Revenue Service might be able to help. I got the postcard shown above in today's mail. No, even though I write about taxes, I'm not special in the IRS' eyes — and that's fine with me. The taxman doesn't have to pay me any extra attention at all, ever! The postcard was addressed to "Resident" so all my neighbors got one. Probably most Austin area folks did, too. Seasonal hiring ritual: There's an IRS facility in the Texas capital and almost every year as the holidays... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Netflix has received a lot of attention lately. Some of it is good, like the online streaming service's impressive wins at this week's Emmy awards. Netflix tied cable giant HBO in overall awards for television program, with each taking home 23 of the statuettes. The impressive number of awards marks a major shift, say industry experts, putting streaming outlets on equal footing with network and cable television. One Missouri city appears to agree with that assessment. And that's the not-so-good attention now being paid to Netflix. Creve Coeur officials contend that a 2007 Show Me State law permits local jurisdictions,... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
One of the reasons that Congress has in recent years been tight-fisted when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service's budget is because the agency apparently operates pretty darn well with what it already has. That's the case, at least, when it comes to IRS collection activity, according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report released on Monday, Sept. 17. The tax watchdog office's generally positive review comes on the heels of the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) also generally complimentary examination of the federal tax agency. While both reports are welcome by the IRS, they also raise... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, second from right, and staff announce efforts to investigate what state officials says is the politicization of the new federal tax law limiting the deduction of state and local taxes. (Photo by Kevin Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via Flickr) A lawsuit fighting the new federal cap on deductible state and local taxes (SALT) is working its way through the courts, but some lawmakers aren't waiting for a judicial (or judicious) result. With Tax Reform 2.0 moving forward in the U.S. House, a couple of new insurrections have flared up. On Capitol Hill, a small... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
New Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig during a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing this summer. Charles P. "Chuck" Rettig is moving into the Internal Revenue Service commissioner's office, which has been officially vacant since last November. Rettig, a corporate tax attorney with a strong background in tax controversies from his work as a 35-year private practitioner, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Sept. 12. As the IRS' 49th commissioner, he will serve the remainder of the five-year term that began Nov. 12, 2017, when former Commissioner John Koskinen completed his service. During his tenure at the Los Angeles... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
The Internal Revenue Service acted quickly in announcing tax relief for Hurricane Florence victims. Read on for how you can follow Uncle Sam's example and lend assistance to those dealing with the deadly storm. Deer brave a Hurricane Florence flooded road in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in search of higher, drier ground. (Screen shot of NBC News Twitter video) As expected, the Internal Revenue Service has announced that some folks in Hurricane Florence's path will received special consideration when it comes to their tax tasks. Residents and businesses in areas that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has determined qualifying for... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Each year, the Internal Revenue Service assesses estimated tax penalties against millions of taxpayers. This added money typically is due the IRS when a taxpayer pays too little total tax during the year. The last time the IRS released complete estimated tax penalty data was three years ago. The federal tax agency said back then that the average estimated tax penalty, which is based on the interest rate charged by the IRS on unpaid tax, was about $130. Back in September 2015, the IRS said it was seeing more taxpayers run into the estimated tax penalty. The number jumped about... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Protesters at rally against Republican tax cuts. (Photo courtesy Stop the GOP Tax Scam) The House Ways and Means Committee began marking up today the three bills that make up what is being called Tax Reform 2.0 (TR2). The package is expected to make it through the tax-writing committee and eventually — by Sept. 30 according to Republican leaders' time frame — the House. The bills will face a more skeptical Senate. They also will be the talk of the midterm elections. And some of the anti-Tax Reform 2.0 rhetoric that's likely to be heard on the campaign trail is... Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
I know it's a little late for all the business owners in North and South Carolina who better already be on the road or heading out soon to get out of Hurricane Florence's reach. Mea culpa. But for the next time — and there will be a next time — here are some ways to get your business ready for any disaster. Most of these are best practices that tax professionals and other companies already follow, but just in case you're worried you forgot something in your rush to get things done and get out, here's a quick checklist. 1.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act expanded the use of 529 education savings plans to cover elementary and secondary school costs. One of the House's Tax Reform 2.0 bills would also make 529 money available to pay some home-schooling expenses. (Photo by Chris Yarzab via Flickr Creative Commons) Facing an already shortened work week due to Rosh Hashana, House Republican leaders say when the lower chamber reconvenes tomorrow, Sept. 12, it will stay in session through the end of the week despite the impending landfall of Hurricane Florence. The reason for powering through, possibly without GOP representatives from the Carolinas... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
The hubby works on what he calls the Law of Two. Basically, he says, it takes (at least) two tries to get anything done properly. I thought of his unofficial law as I read the Internal Revenue Service's clarification of one of its earlier clarifications. Tax geeks already know I'm talking about the IRS and Treasury declaration a couple of weeks ago regarding state tax credit programs tied to taxpayer deduction of state and local taxes, referred to as SALT. Less tax to deduct: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits the itemized SALT deduction, which includes individual payments of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
A few election years ago, Republicans were aghast at the level of takers compared to makers. In case you've forgotten, they were complaining that an increasing number of folks, the so-called takers, were escaping their rightful tax payments and getting government help at the expense of the makers, higher earners who tend to put more tax money into the economy. That's still happening. Now, however, in a wonderful bit of political irony, it's the GOP that's responsible for more U.S. households avoiding tax bills next filing season. Big tax cuts for millions: The latest analysis by the Tax Policy Center... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
José Altuve, Major League Baseball's 2017 MVP, heads to the podium in Houston's Minute Maid Park to get his 2017 World Series ring at the Astros' home opener on April 2, 2018. Yes, my photo is blurry, but the stadium was rocking! Football season is here. Professional, college and high school teams have all taken the field for games that finally count. But some of us are still watching baseball. Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs are nearing and there are tight division and wildcard (don't email me baseball purists; it is what it is) races, some of which will come... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) was among GOP leaders who celebrated the six-month anniversary of the party's tax reform bill back in June. Now he and other Republicans want to expand that bill by the end of September. We're still waiting for clarification of many of the new tax laws in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). In fact, some say we need clarification of clarifications; have you tried to decipher the new 199A business deduction even with the Internal Revenue Service guidance? But such lingering TCJA questions are not stopping Republican leaders from trying... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
There won't be many bets on the Dallas Cowboys to win the Super Bowl next February. Odds makers say that possibility is a 30-to-1 longshot. I'm a fan of the 'Boys and I think that's being way too optimistic! (Cowboys playing Detroit Lions in Dallas by Kay Bell) Professional football fans are ready for some football as the NFL's 2018 season kicks off tonight. And the league itself may finally be ready for some legal gambling on its sport. The reason is, of course, money. Billions in betting-related revenue: National Football League could pocket an added $2.3 billion a year... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
This time of year, my social media streams are full of photos of my friends' children as they head back to class. And it's not just the youngest students being celebrated. Yes, I'm old enough to have peers with kids in college. While all these students' parents are proud of their progeny's new educational milestone, there's also a bittersweet tinge to all those Facebook postings of surprisingly grown up kids. And, of course, there's the realization that this next phase of their youngsters' lives is going to cost them. In some cases, the costs will be a whoooooole lot. Ever... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Trees in September will see their first fall color. (Photo by Jonathan Bloy courtesy Bloy.net) Hello, September. It's nice to have you back. You are a month that offers mostly-welcome transitions. There are beginnings, as students start a new school year. Parents nationwide say "thank you!" There are endings, as summer gives way to fall's cooler temps and foliage changes. Those of us tired of heat waves want to know what took you so long!?! There are expectations, as the end of the year and its many holidays approach. It's never too early to start planning for these. My Christmas... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Labor Day 2018 doesn't bring much good news for unions. Membership in the workplace organizations has, at best, stalled. Politicians and the public tend to view them unfavorably. And they lost a tax break in last year's tax reform bill. But there's a faint light for unionized workers thanks to a bill to restore their dues deduction and make the expense easier for more members to claim. Mention "unions" and most of us think of hardhat wearing men, like these members of the Utility Workers Union of America clearing storm damage. But union memberships cover a wide range and variety... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
An EU sign greets international travelers at a passport control checkpoint at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany (Voice of America News photo) Many folks are taking one final quick vacation this long Labor Day weekend to mark the end of summer and beginning of the school year. But some folks who are crossing international borders might find they're not welcome. It has nothing, however, to do with the country they want to visit. It's because of their passports have been revoked because they owe big tax bills. How tax bills hamper travel: Since the December 2015 enactment of the federal... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Sen. John McCain, a decorated U.S. Navy fighter pilot, addressed the Naval Academy Brigade of Midshipmen in Annapolis, Maryland, in October 2017. (Photo courtesy Sen. McCain's Facebook page) The late Sen. John McCain, in keeping with his maverick tendencies to buck even his own political party and to work across the aisle, offered a tax plan during his 2000 quest for the Republican presidential nomination that borrowed from Democrats and Republicans alike. That proposal 18 years ago by the Arizona Republican called for $237.5 billion in tax cuts over five years in such portions that they could be embraced by... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
New York Giants fan chow down at a pre-NFL game tailgate party. (Photo by Ben Vardi via Wikipedia Commons) College football begins in full force this Labor Day weekend. The professional pigskin players kick off the 2018 season on Thursday, Sept. 6. That means crazy body paint, tons of tailgating and betting. Yes, although professional sports leagues and especially the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hate to admit it, gamblers put down billions on games every year. Most of those wagers have been, and will continue to be, placed illegally despite the May 14 decision by the Supreme Court of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Tourists still love Disney's original castle at its flagship theme park in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Tuxyso via Wikipedia Commons) Most major corporations want cities and states to provide them massive tax breaks to move to or keep their operations in a specific place. Just look at Amazon, which is expected to soon announce the home of its new tax incentive laden second headquarters. The House of Mouse, however, is taking a different approach. This week the Anaheim City Council voted to end agreements with Disney that provide tax breaks for the original Disneyland theme park, Disney California Adventure and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did away with exemptions, a particularly concerning change for large families. Exemptions were a specific dollar amount, adjusted annually for inflation, that taxpayers could claim for themselves, their spouses if filing jointly and dependents. The exemptions total helped reduce the amount of filers' income subject to tax. TCJA supporters, however, say not to worry. They say the new law's lower income tax rates, wider income brackets, larger and more refundable child tax credit and $500 tax credit for other dependents will make up for the eliminated exemptions. Dependents guidance: The Internal Revenue Service... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
The tax collection efforts of four private debt collectors are paying off, bringing in $56.6 million in previously uncollected tax revenue in the first 14 months they've been on the job. However, it cost the tax bill collectors $55.3 million to do that job, netting Uncle Sam only $1.3 million. That's the word from an Internal Revenue Service report on the most-recent iteration of the private tax debt collection program. "Contrary to critics' claims and despite its slow-roll out, the IRS private debt collection program is already demonstrating that it can more than pay for itself with revenues returned to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
Image
Donors to charities are used to scrambling on Dec. 31 to get their tax-deductible gifts to nonprofits in under the tax-year wire. But thanks to Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changes, many are facing a deadline today, Aug. 27. The TCJA set a new $10,000 limit on state and local tax (SALT) payments that can be deducted on federal returns. To get around that, several states established charitable funds to which their residents, who claim itemize deductions on their federal tax returns, could make SALT payments. Those gifts to the state then would be deductible as charitable donations, which was... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes