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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
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The world — OK, U.S. tax world — is anxiously anticipating the shrinkage (yeah, I'm now replaying that Seinfeld episode in my head, too; sorry) of Form 1040. The Treasury Secretary last week promised that by the time the 2019 tax filing season rolls around, the longest tax return, which is filed by 68 percent of taxpayers, will be substantially smaller. The goal is the long-promised size of a postcard. But another Internal Revenue Service form that affects even more folks already has been revised. The IRS earlier this month released a draft version of Form W-4 for the 2019... Continue reading
Posted 20 minutes ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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On June 20, Republican leaders, including Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas speaking, celebrated the six-month anniversary of House passage of their tax bill. (Screenshot from Speaker.gov video; click image to view full event) When the Republicans finally got the tax cuts they wanted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, they viewed the changes as not only good tax policy but also a good political move. The debate continues as to the efficacy of the changes as far as tax policy, but there's more of a consensus on its political possibility. And the news is... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Since its appearance in 2003, around 50 million taxpayers have used Free File. As the name indicates, this partnership of the Internal Revenue Service and tax software manufacturers known as the Free File Alliance gives most taxpayers the opportunity to do their taxes on their computers and then e-file them at no cost. But, notes Pro Publica in an article co-published with Quartz, the number of Free Filing taxpayers comes to just around 3 percent of eligible households. That, according to the article by Tik Root, means that folks have spent around $1 billion on tax prep and filing fees... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Speaker Paul Ryan touts postcard tax return possibilities after House passage of tax reform legislation last November. (Screen shot from Speaker.gov YouTube video) Every year the Internal Revenue Service makes tweaks to tax returns. Often it's simply updating annual inflation adjusted amounts. Other times it's adding or subtracting a line due to law changes. But for 2018's filing material, there will be large-scale form alterations thanks to the major changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Among the new law's modifications for the 2018 tax year will be the actual size of the oldest of the tax... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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U.S. Supreme Court photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr CC Sorry most* U.S. shoppers. Whether you buy from your main street brick-and-mortar retailer or your favorite cyber mall, you're probably going to owe sales tax. Sorry, too, many U.S. businesses that rely on online, catalog and phone sales. You're going to have to devise ways to collect and remit sales tax (or at least report) on your remote transactions. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today ruled in South Dakota vs. Wayfair that the nexus standard established in 1992 by the High Court's Quill vs. North Dakota decision... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Kilauea lava flow from U.S. Geological Survey via Giphy.com Hawaiians got some relatively good news this week in connection with the continuing lava flow from Mount Kilauea. The volcano is continuing to spew potentially deadly gases and pour flaming lava across a growing southeastern section of the 50th state's Big Island. The eruption, which started May 3, also is still producing explosions and earthquakes. Now, however, the catastrophe has been declared a major disaster by the White House. That is good tax news for affected residents, which is everyone on the state's largest island, also named Hawaii, as is the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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June generally is a good time to review your tax situation and make moves while there are months for them to make a difference to your upcoming tax bill. That's particularly true this year, what with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes in full force. Unfortunately, questions remain as to just how the new tax law changes will affect some folks. Business change uncertainty: Businesses in particular are among the taxpayers still unsure about TCJA provisions. Many are waiting for clarification of the new law's elimination of business entertainment expenses. The tax community is divided as to whether... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Real Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo, left, and Luka Modrić go against each other in a Portugal vs. Croatia friendly match in June 2013. (Photo by Fanny Schertzer via Wikipedia) I'm not a soccer or World Cup fan, but many of my social media pals are. That's why my Twitter feed is full of updates on upsets and expected results from this year's tournament hosted by Russia. But those sports fans have overlooked one thing. Some of soccer's — football to the world beyond the United States — biggest global stars also have faced serious international tax battles. Portugal star fights... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Fathers Day Happy Fathers Day GIF from Fathersday GIFs Happiest of days to all the dads out there. And thank you Sonora Dodd. Dodd was raised by her father after her mother's death during childbirth. While listening to a sermon at church on Mother's Day, Dodd thought about all her father had done for her and her siblings and decided fathers should have a day, too. Because Dodd's father was born in June, she encouraged churches in Spokane, Washington, where she was living, to honor fathers that month. The first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane in on June 19,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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It's a cliché because it's true. All politics is local. That applies to taxes, too. Whether you love or hate a tax law depends on how much it helps or hurts you personally. That's why this weekend's Saturday Shout Out goes to the Tax Foundation's interactive map that lets you see average 2018 tax cuts in your congressional district. If you want to go beyond your locality, you can check out the dollar differences on average make to taxpayers across the country. As you can see on the Washington, D.C.-based tax policy nonprofit's map reproduced below, you simply enter your... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Yes, as soon as I heard about the New York Attorney General filing a lawsuit against Donald J. Trump's charitable foundation, I checked the Internal Revenue Service exempt organization online search tool. There it, or they, were. When I entered Trump Foundation into the Tax Exempt Organization Search, or TEOS because everything in Washington, D.C. has an acronym, it turned up six results. The top two were what I was looking for: Trump Foundation EIN: 13-3054537 | New York, NY, United States Donald J Trump Foundation Inc. EIN: 13-3404773 | Woodbury, NY, United States Both organizations are listed in IRS... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The only folks cheering the Federal Reserve's expected decision to hike its benchmark federal funds rate by a quarter-percentage point — to a range between 1.75 percent and 2 percent — are those with savings that earn interest. But relatively speaking, there aren't that many of us. Plus, we all know that banks and other financial institutions are going to be slow to increase the interest they pay us for holding our money and when they do, the hikes will be small. Meanwhile, if you are trying to get a mortgage, don't panic but move that process along as quickly... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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June's a busy month for me. Lots of family birthdays. Father's Day. Graduations. Taxes. Yep. Taxes. In June. Specifically, June 15. The midpoint of the first month of summer is a major tax deadline. Estimated taxes: The biggie for a lot of taxpayers (including me) is the second installment of 2018's estimated taxes that's due by June 15. You have several ways to make this payment — six, actually, according to the current Weekly Tax Tip. I'll let you check out the details in that other post at your leisure, but here are some of the more popular options: Credit... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Our home's celebration of the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. It's champions day at our house! I spent the morning watching the Washington Capitals, the new National Hockey League champions, parade down Constitution Avenue showing the Stanley Cup to their long-suffering fans. Then I switched over to watch the Golden State Warriors, the National Basketball Association's back-to-back champs, celebrate with their fans along the downtown Oakland parade route. It's fitting that the latest major league champs on both U.S. coasts had their parades today. Their festivities come on the heels of expanded sports betting across the country. N.J. sports... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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School's out. Summer is here, at least unofficially judging by the temperatures. And thousands of Americans are planning vacations. There also are a sizable number of homeowners hoping to make some extra bucks off all those seasonal travelers. Home rental popularity: Alternative accommodation, as the segment is known in the industry, appeals to those looking to immerse themselves in a new place culturally. Other opt for such lodging for the privacy (no paper-thin hotel walls), convenience (cooking meals instead of always eating out; use of the owner's Wi-Fi or streaming services) or amenities (a private pool) of a personal home... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Donald J. Trump arrived in Quebec for the G-7 meeting with some controversial ideas (notably, letting Russia back in the club) and he left the international meeting the same way. Tweeting from Air Force One as he headed to Singapore to meet with North Korea's Kim Jung Un, Trump gave notice he's ready to escalate trade disagreements with Canada by imposing automobile tariffs. The initial reaction has been what such a move could actually mean to the U.S. automotive industry. Tax cut tariff costs: But auto tariffs also could undermine any gains from the TCJA, according to a Washington, D.C.-based... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The Republican's new tax law is expected to be the focus of the coming midterm elections. GOP candidates are telling taxpayers that they — or most of them, anyway — will owe the U.S. Treasury less in 2018 thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Democrats running for office, however, argue that any individual tax cuts under the new law are relatively small and, unless their colleagues across the aisle can change things in the next few months, are temporary. That ending date is Dec. 31, 2025. So who's telling the truth? It depends — wait for it... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Millions of folks filed for an extension last April, getting six more months to finish their 2017 Form 1040. They also paid their expected tax bill, or as much as they could, then so as to avoid late- or nonpayment penalties. Some taxpayers, however, always blow off this annual tax duty entirely. They don't finish he Internal Revenue Service forms. They don't send them and the money to Uncle Sam at all. They might have good reasons for the tax oversight. Or they might just be ignoring their civic tax duties. Regardless, the oversight is gonna hurt. But it doesn't... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Tired of being a wage slave? Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), some disgruntled salaried employees are looking into becoming independent contractors. But before you take the leap into a new way of working, you need to take tax and other matters into account. "Congress flipped traditional tax-planning upside down" with the new tax law, noted the Tax Policy Center's Steven M. Rosenthal in a TaxVox post soon after the new tax law took full effect earlier this year. "Many moderate-income workers may be able to exploit a tax break that higher-income workers cannot. And by shifting... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The hubby and I, like every other person, are getting older every day. That means we're getting closer to claiming Social Security and Medicare benefits. Two recent reports on the status of those federal programs make me glad to be closer to our collection dates. Both Social Security and Medicare, according to the programs' trustees, will run out of money to pay beneficiaries in 16 years and 8 years, respectively. At least the grayer-every-day hubby and I will get some of the full payouts. Sorry about all you youngsters! OK, I'm really not that selfish. But we are a bit... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Tax law changes mean that some previously deductible miles can no longer be claimed. (Traffic photo by Jo via Flickr) Back in March, the Internal Revenue Service announced revised inflation changes for many tax provisions that were affected by the recently-enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). One area that didn't change, however, was the list of 2018 standard mileage amounts used to calculate the driving-related tax breaks associated with medical, business, charity and moving costs. For the 2018 tax year, those cents-per-mile amounts are shown in the table below, along with the 2017 figures for folks who might be... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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It's June! That means summer is here, both temperature-wise (more like mid-summer here in Texas!) and officially later this month. The arrival of the Summer Solstice — it's June 21 this year — is just one of the many special days in this sixth month of the year. There's Father's Day, Flag Day, D-Day, Juneteenth and, of course, the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. Then we have (or had) Doughnut Day (that was last Friday, June 1), Chocolate Ice Cream Day, International Yoga Day and for pet lovers, separate cat (today, June 4, is Hug Your Cat Day) and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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In preparation for the summer cookout season, the hubby and I have been sprucing up our patio. The biggest job, aside from cleaning the thick layer of pollen off the outdoor dining table (yes, the hubby is appalled I'm showing that in the above photo), is replacing our almost 20-year-old patio furniture cushions. We tried buying replacements at local outdoor stores. Then we went to a couple of big box chains. Finally, we found what we wanted at a reasonable price in one of the many gardening/outdoor living catalogs that fill up our snail mail box. So we ordered them... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The fresh pepper section is always my first stop at my local H-E-B grocery store. Most of these delectable edibles come from Mexico. Donald J. Trump's forays last week into international issues got lots of attention. There was, of course, the on-off-on-again (and potentially taxpayer costly) Singapore Summit with North Korea. While I'm all for working to keep Kim Jong Un from reverting to his nuclear missile happy persona, my Texas neighbors and I were focused on another global matter. Yep, I'm talking about Trump's statement that he'd like to scrap the North American Free Trade Arrangement, or NAFTA, followed... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The 2018 Atlantic basin tropical storm season, which began early with Alberto's late May arrival, is now officially here. Get ready for possible storms. And note that tax law changes mean you might not get any tax help with your recovery efforts this year. Remember this? A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite caught Hurricanes Katia and Irma and Tropical Storm Jose (left to right) lining up on Sept. 8, 2017. Mother Nature has her own calendar. She ignored today's official start of the 2018 Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico hurricane season by, in late May, creating Tropical Storm Alberto. That storm... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2018 at Don't Mess With Taxes