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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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Image by Shawn Campbell via Flickr Creative Commons What's going on with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? It depends on where you're looking for answers. Federal lawmakers remain in a quandary over how to deal with the ACA, or as it's known (for now) Obamacare. The Internal Revenue Service, however, made it clear this week that it plans to follow the health care law's reporting requirements as long as they are officially on the books. That's a reversal of a prior IRS position. However, given the confusion with the law, both under its namesake president and since Donald J. Trump... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Don't Mess With Taxes
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To err on tax returns is human. To forgive is Xtraordinary, and yes, the misspelling is intentional. Tax law lets us correct mistakes we make on our 1040s via another form, the 1040X. Most people file 1040X, which is known as amending your return, because they discovered they didn't claim a tax break that give them a (or a bigger) tax refund. Of course, since the Internal Revenue Service is involved, there are some rules and certain steps you must follow. Here are five key things to keep in mind if you discover you need to re-do a previously filed... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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It's that time of year again. Monday, Oct. 16, the absolute final tax return filing deadline. Don't panic. You've still got a few hours to fill out and submit your 2016 Form 1040. The latest Weekly Tax Tip, over there at the top of the ol' blog's right column, has 10 tax tidbits to help you through today. You also can find more tax tips in this year's previously posted Daily Tax Tips, conveniently archived on their own by-month pages: January, February, March and April. Good luck with your 2016 return today. And remember, when you're done with that (yay!),... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Cook County residents lined up last week to tell county commissioners what they thought about the board's proposed soda tax. (Photo by Hal Dardick via Twitter) Cook Cook County officials implemented a tax on sugary beverages this summer. That levy, which was designed to (1) promote healthier habits among Chicago-area residents, (2) raise more much needed money for the Illinois county or (3) both, has fizzled. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, county commissioners voted 15-2 to repeal the penny-per-ounce tax, which, like similar proposals, is usually referred to as a soda — or pop in the Midwest — tax. Collection of... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Aerial view on Oct. 9 of a damaged home in the mountainous area of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, many homes, businesses, roads and bridges suffered major damages due to strong winds and heavy rain. (Photo by Andrea Booher, FEMA) To borrow from James Taylor's plaintive classic, the Internal Revenue Service has seen fire and rain and is making tax accommodations for Americans having to deal with those disastrous aftermaths. Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, pummeling the U.S. territory with category 5 force. Three weeks later, many of the island's 3.4 million residents are... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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If Halloween isn't scary enough for you, this October also has a Friday the 13th, which if you haven't looked at a calendar yet, is today. It's a terrible day if you're superstitious or suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia. And making things even more frightening, the Internal Revenue Service has some terrifying news about tax scams. This week alone, the IRS has issued two warnings about tax-related identity theft schemes. First was the phishing attempt to hook tax pros by using the agency's e-Services as bait. Now there's a fake insurance tax form scam that's being used to access annuity and life... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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AT&T Stadium, originally known as Cowboys Stadium when it opened its doors in 2009 and forever known as Jerry's World regardless of which company buys naming rights, is home to America's Team. It also hosts college football's Cotton Bowl game, as well as a variety of other sports and entertainment activities. NFL team owner Jerry Jones footed most of the billion-dollar stadium's cost, but Arlington voters approved an increase of the city's sales, hotel occupancy and car rental taxes to help pay for the facility. Arlington also provided millions in bonds to help Jones cover any cost overruns. (Photo by... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Tax identity thieves apparently are paying close attention to official security moves that the Internal Revenue Service is making and using that information to create new schemes. The latest effort by crooks to steal taxpayer personal data comes in the form of a new phishing scam designed to steal tax professionals' passwords and data. e-Services is hook for latest ID theft effort: In an email alert sent this (Oct. 11) afternoon to tax pros, the IRS warned that this latest scheme tries to trick them into signing a new e-Services user agreement. The phishing email claims to be from "e-Services... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Based on Internal Revenue Service tax return filing data, it looks like around 7 million Americans have yet to submit their 2016 forms. They need to get busy. (Yes, I get to say they, not we, this year since I filed my 1040 this summer.) The absolute, final due date is less than a week away. The six-month filing extension typically kicks the extended deadline to Oct. 15. But since that's on a Sunday this year, the IRS is giving extreme procrastinators until Monday, Oct. 16. So that you don't waste any of these last few days you have to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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So that you can enjoy lazy days in your retirement like this couple, take advantage of tax-saving retirement moves by the October filing extension deadline. (Photo by Pug50 courtesy Flickr CC) If you're one of the millions who's put off filing your tax return until October, you know that due date — it's Monday, Oct. 16, this year — is just a week away. (More on this, complete with filing tips coming soon!) But mid-October is also a key deadline for other tax tasks, particularly when it comes to retirement savings. Here are a couple of retirement-related tax matters to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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A proposal to limit certain business estate valuation discounts is outta here under the Treasury's finalized list of eight tax regulations it wants to eliminate or substantially revise. Remember back in July when the U.S. Treasury announced eight tax regulations it said were burdensome and needed to be changed or axed? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his staff have now finalized what they want to do with these eight rules. Three would be tossed out, including one that many say hurt family-owned and operated businesses. Two would be partially revoked. The final three would be substantially revised. "This is only... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Michael Horowitz, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Justice and Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, welcomes one and all to Oversight.gov, a new website that consolidates public reports from federal Inspectors General. Whenever talk turns to tax reform, there also are discussions on cutting federal spending. After all, if some of us get more favorable tax treatment, the money to make up for that lost revenue must come from somewhere. Conventional wisdom and political rhetoric tends to focus on Uncle Sam's inefficiencies, both perceived and real. If a federal agency or department... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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UPDATE, Oct. 13, 2017: Public and Congressional pressure, which included Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-Ohio) letter to the Treasury Department urging it to review and potentially bar Equifax from consideration in any new or renewed government contracts, has paid off for opponents of the credit reporting bureau deal. The IRS announced, per an Oct. 12 report by Politico, that it has temporarily suspended the $7.25 million, no-bid contract it awarded to Equifax to verify the identities of taxpayers when they create accounts on the tax agency's website. Driver's license data was among the personal info that identity thieves obtained in the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Everyone knows the Monopoly Man, even if we don't know his name. His classy duds, compete with top hat, and bushy mustache make him immediately recognizable. For many of us, he and his board game were our introduction to high finance. Now, however, he's branched out. He made a real-life appearance this week at a Congressional hearing. Equifax visual protest: OK, it was someone dressed up like Rich Uncle Pennybags, which is the Monopoly Man's name. And the impersonator stole the show from former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who continued to make the Washington, D.C, rounds to take heat for... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Who's in the middle class will determine in large part whether that group of Americans gets Republican-promised middle class tax relief. One of the big debates about any tax reform is whether or how much it will benefit the middle class. That was a question in today's #TaxBuzzChat about the recently released Republican framework for tax reform. First, however, we need to decide what is and who is part of the United States middle class. There are several ways to define the middle class. Some say it is based on income. Other define it by lifestyle. Still others say middle... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith is grilled Oct. 3 about the credit company's security breach by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Click image to watch full hearing on YouTube) Human error, specifically one human's error, is why 145 million of us are worrying about what crooks will do with the data that was stolen earlier this year in a data breach of Equifax. Richard Smith, the credit reporting bureau's former CEO, in testimony before House Energy and Commerce Committee today blamed the initial failure to patch a known security risk on a specific individual. He did not... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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October marks the start for many companies of open season for employees' workplace benefits, many of which provide workers some nice tax savings. It's also a good month to make other tax-related moves. It's time to turn our attention to health care again. This time, though, it's not medical insurance via the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. Instead, October marks the beginning of open enrollment season for workplace-provided benefits at companies across the country. Decide now for next year: Open enrollment periods vary from company to company. Most run from two to four weeks for workers to evaluate their current benefits and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Congress hopes to move beyond talk and have tax reform details in writing by mid-November. The Senate Budget Committee released its 2018 budget blueprint on Sept. 29, setting the stage for up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next 10 years. That's an astounding, alarming, amazing, pick-your-adjective amount. But the figure that caught my eye, and which earns this week's By the Numbers honor, is 13. As in Nov. 13. That's the date set in the Senate budget resolution by which it wants some legislative flesh attached to the framework of a tax reform that Republicans released on... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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It's International Podcast Day! Why are you reading (although thank you for stopping by)? You should be listening. That's why on this day celebrating the internet's audio offerings, this Shout Out Saturday goes to seven of my favorite financial podcasts. 1. Money Girl Laura Adams is the Money Girl of the title, offering her self-described "quick and dirty tips for a richer life." This one caught my ear because Adams' typically short and sweet 'casts often include comments about my favorite financial subject, taxes. Even better, her tips typically are pretty actionable, so as soon as you're through listening, you... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The arrival of a new NFL season each year also means the arrival of fantasy sports. More states are looking to regulate and, of course, tax daily fantasy sports operations. How's your National Football League team doing this season? For most fans, the answer is probably pretty good. A quick glance at NFL.com's standings after week three shows a preponderance of 2-1 teams, along with a handful that are undefeated. For many fans, however, the more important, and potentially lucrative, question is how is your fantasy football team doing? Quick confession here. I watch NFL games (until my teams start... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Shelley Long and Tom Hanks confront one of many (MANY) problems of homeownership in 1986's "The Money Pit." (Click image to view full MovieClips.com scene.) How expensive is owning a home? So expensive that many homeowners view "The Money Pit" as a documentary. But, we console ourselves, at least we get some nice tax breaks for our piece of the American Dream. In many cases, though, the reality of buying a house is, at best, a wash economically. Some folks would be better off financially renting. Ah, but emotionally, there's little that can beat the feeling of having your own... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, surrounded by his Republican colleagues, displays a postcard tax return his Party says will be possible under the tax reform framework released today. (Screenshot of C-SPAN video; click image to watch tape.) And so tax reform 2017 begins. Unfortunately, it begins vaguely. The Republican Party today released its "Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code." That long title, which is in dramatic all capital letters on cover of the nine-page document, belies the amount of information it provides. In fact, there are fewer tax details in this latest GOP... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Real estate taxes, along with other now-deductible state and local levies, could be eliminated as part of the forthcoming Republican tax reform plan. One thing is true when it comes to tax law changes. Some people win and some people lose. The big question as we await the Trump Administration's tax reform proposal is who will end up in which group. One segment seen as a potential big loser in the proposal Republicans will release on Wednesday, Sept. 27, are the Americans who pay state and local taxes. These include income, sales and property taxes, all of which currently can... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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We'll finally know this week just what's in the Trump Administration's tax plan. One area individuals and businesses are closely watching is whether the proposal will include changes to company-offered retirement plans known as 401(k)s. Photo by 401(k) 2012 via Flickr Most workers participate in a traditional 401(k) plan, in which employees' retirement contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, the fund grows tax-deferred and then account owners pay tax on their withdrawals in retirement at ordinary income tax rates. These 401(k)s are attractive to many not only because of the usual match by their employers of at least some contributions,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Here's some United Kingdom news that's much more exciting than the blowout NFL game played today in London. Two million married couples in Great Britain are missing out on their share of £1.3 billion ($1.76 billion U.S.) available via a marriage tax break. It's official, this bride indicates, by showing off her wedding band. (Photo by Pulathi Talagala via Flickr CC) Those unclaimed billions were calculated by Royal London insurance group after it received data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC; the U.K. version of America's Internal Revenue Service) following a freedom of information request. HMRC figures show that only... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes