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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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After a brief hiatus, the Internal Revenue Service has reinstated its online tool where professional tax preparers can obtain the official identification numbers required to file returns. On June 1, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a mixed ruling in a class action lawsuit against the IRS, Adam Steele, et al. v. United States of America (Case No. 1:14-cv-01523-RCL). The federal judges said that while ruled that while the IRS has the authority to require tax pros to get Preparer Tax Identification Numbers, or PTINs, the tax agency cannot charge for the ID numbers. The... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Here's a look at eight Affordable Care Act taxes that Republicans in both the House and Senate agree on eliminating. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), joined by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) and a mostly hidden Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) held a press conference today to denounce as "meaner" their GOP Senate colleagues' version of health care reform to replace Obamacare. (Photo courtesy Sen. Schumer's Twitter account) The Senate today finally revealed its version of Obamacare repeal and replace, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 or BCRA. The 142-page document, which Senate leadership is describing as... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Regardless of which month you marry, there are and will be tax matters to consider. Relaxing after the ceremony. (Photo by Barney Moss via Flickr) Ever wonder why June is "the" wedding month? Me, too. So I looked it up. The Old Farmer's Almanac, which I never realized was a go-to wedding planning resource, says that June is the most popular month to marry thanks to some ancient traditions. The Roman goddess Juno, for whom the sixth month was named, was the protector of women in all aspects of life, but especially in marriage and childbearing. So, says the Almanac,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Tropical Storm Storm Cindy is now officially churning in the Gulf of Mexico, with a predicted landfall in a few days along the Texas-Louisiana border. That track could, of course change. And as meteorologists on the Weather Channel note, "it's not the name, but the rain." Tropical system precipitation typically reaches beyond the actual low pressure system, often well inland of coastal properties, and produces dangerous flooding. Such reports have come in from as far north as Atlanta today, with Cindy's expanded rain bands causing highway flooding in that city. Federal and state tax help for recovery efforts: As noted... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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That colorful glob pictured above is Tropical Storm Bret. It formed this afternoon, kicking the 2017 Atlantic-Gulf of Mexico hurricane season into a higher gear. While images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can give us — and by us, I mean professional meteorologists — an indication of a storm's strength, what you and I really want to know is where the heck is this mess? Tropical Storm Bret is born: The purple map lines in the image are a bit hard to see, but my U.S. readers can breathe easy, at least for now. Bret is off the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Identity thieves are once again targeting taxpayers, this time with a twist on the pervasive telephone tax scam. In its original version, which the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies have dubbed the biggest tax scam ever, crooks pretend to be IRS employees and demand immediate payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer of a purported tax owed by the victims. 3 tweaks to telephone scam: The ID thieves are still impersonating IRS agent and they still want our money ASAP via a debit card. But this time they've refined their fake story in three ways regarding the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Dancing with Daddy (Courtesy Wifflegif.com via Giphy) Those of us lucky enough to have (or have had) great dads are well aware of all the support they provide. There are the traditional demonstrations, like teaching us to dance (like the dad above, sort of) or ride a bicycle and later to drive a car. And of course, there is Dad's perpetually open wallet, especially for us daughters who will always be our fathers' little girls. But families have changed over the years. More single fathers: Of the 72.2 million fathers in the United States, just more than a third (34... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Walt Disney attorneys contend that the values of its properties are as inflated as these Disney World balloons and have gone to court to get new assessments. (Photo by Davidlohr Bueso via Flickr) Walt Disney's namesake recreational areas have built their vacation reputations on being the happiest places on Earth. But the company's tax lawyers are in decidedly bad moods after getting what they say are excessive tax year 2016 property value assessments of their Sunshine State parks. So Disney is taking the Orange Country, Florida, property appraiser to court. Dozens Disney tax suits: Disney Parks and Resorts have filed... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Donald J. Trump's got a lot of campaign promise policy issue irons in the fire. This week, he pulled one out a bit by deciding to let undocumented residents known as DREAMers stay in the United States. The decision was announced as part of a fact sheet released by Homeland Security late June 15. That document's next-to-last line notes: "The June 15, 2012 memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect." A group of DREAMers, the undocumented youths who hope to remain in the United States, make their point during a 2016 presidential... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Lots of taxpayers today, June 15, are making their second estimated tax payment electronically. That makes the Internal Revenue Service very happy, as it works to get the majority of taxpayers dealing with tax matters online. Ultimately, the IRS is looking to fully implement its Future State with its mostly electronic tax transactions. To that increasingly electronic end, the IRS this week announced expansions to its online taxpayer account tool. This e-option debuted last December and lets taxpayers have online access to their IRS accounts. Expanded account options: Initially, the Taxpayer Online Account online tool let those who registered for... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The Stars and Stripes. Old Glory. The Red, White and Blue. The Star Spangled Banner. Whatever name you use, today is the annual national celebration of the United States of America's flag, one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. U.S. Navy vessels commemorate Flag Day. (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy via Twitter) Flag, Flag Day history: The U.S. flag was adopted 240 years ago on June 14, 1777. From its beginnings at Betsy Ross' hands during the American Revolution to today when many residents of Puerto Rico are seeking to have another star added, Old Glory has changed with... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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It may be summer, but for some folks, Tax Day is coming up again on Thursday, June 15. That day is the deadline that millions of Americans face to pay their second estimated tax amount for the 2017 tax year. It's also the due day for U.S. taxpayers living abroad to file their 2016 tax returns. Estimated tax time again: The U.S. tax system is based on the premise that the U.S. Treasury gets its portion of individual taxes as we earn our money. For most of us, that happens via payroll withholding from our checks that we get from... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Moving's a hassle for everyone, but in some cases the relocation costs are tax deductible. Donald J. Trump's family was finally reunited this weekend as his wife, Melania, and their 11-year-old son Barron moved into the White House. There were no moving vans spotted outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to let the world know of the relocation. Rather, the word came, of course, via Twitter. This time, though it was the First Lady, not @realDonaldTrump, who let social media and the world know that the family had officially moved from Trump Tower in Manhattan to Washington, D.C. Melania used her official... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The winning Powerball numbers drawn Saturday, June 10, are 20-26-32-38-58 with the Powerball of 03. One lucky California ticket buyer can claim the $447.8 million jackpot. Talk about lucky. Not only did last night's (Saturday, June 10) Powerball winner match all six numbers to take the almost $448 million jackpot, that person lives in California. By the time of the drawing, the jackpot had grown into the seventh largest U.S. lottery ever. If the winner takes the single, lump-sum payout (which most winners do), he or she will get a check for just more than $279 million, according to lottery... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Why do lottery jackpots seem to grow on already big gambling days? Does God just like tempting all of us with quick riches? In March 2013, a big Powerball jackpot and March Madness coincided. Two months later, Powerball and the Preakness converged. Then May 2, 2015, was a major betting day, with American Pharoah looking to take the first leg of horse racing's big title (he won then and the other two, too, becoming the last Triple Crown champ), a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas, and national Hockey League and National Basketball Association championship... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The Financial Choice Act is a third of the way to becoming law. Want to take a guess as to what it might do? It obviously deals with money. But it's about giving more choices to financial institutions, not to consumers. The Financial Choice Act essentially seeks to roll back much of the Dodd-Frank Act, one of President Barack Obama's signature accomplishments. The current law, enacted in 2010 and whose full, official Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act moniker comes from its former U.S. Senate champions Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, was created to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Many professional tax preparers say that giving the Internal Revenue Service added regulatory ability over their jobs isn't warranted. The tax agency and Trump Administration disagree. (Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr CC) The Trump Administration has continued the current trend of cutting the Internal Revenue Service's annual operating funds, but a provision in the new White House's fiscal year 2018 budget also could solve a new IRS problem. On June 1, the Internal Revenue Service got the bad news from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that the tax agency can't collect fees from... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Education have a graduation gift for some students. The tax agency's income data retrieval tool that makes it easier to apply for federal financial college aid is once again operational for some applicants. This cool balloon was part of my neighbors' celebration of their son's graduation. Some Texas gusts, however, helped it take a post-graduation trip to our driveway. After snapping this photo (and Instagram video), I helped the light-headed fellow home. Since 2012, the IRS has made getting income information easier for students and their parents who are seeking financial help by... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Another online Internal Revenue Service tool has been taken offline, but this time it's not security related. Instead, the IRS has shut down the online method by which tax professionals can apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN, in the wake of a court ruling against the federal tax agency. When you hire a tax pro to help you file your annual return, that paid preparer has to include his or her PTIN on your 1040. But a recent court ruling says the IRS no longer can charge preparers for this special identifying number. Since the fall of... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Take a look at this Twitter post by Donald J. Trump back in October 2015 of his purported 2014 tax return documents. That's still as close as we've gotten to seeing any of the president's tax filings. We got word about Donald J. Trump's 2016 taxes over the weekend. No, he didn't share them with the public. In fact, Trump is making even the country's tax collection agency wait to see them. The president has, like millions of other taxpayers, filed for an extension to finish filling out his 2016 tax return. All we've got is time: Both NBC and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Most Americans living abroad don't like the U.S. requirement that they have to send the Internal Revenue Service a Form 1040. That's one of the findings in Greenback Expat Tax Services most recent annual survey of U.S. expatriates. If your trip abroad turns into something more permanent, you'll have many U.S. expatriate issues to consider, including taxes. (Photo courtesy Those Dam Americans blog) Sixty-six percent of expats queried earlier this year told Greenback they don't believe they should be required to file a U.S. tax return while they are living outside Uncle Sam's borders. That more than two-thirds percentage is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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David Beckham made part of his estimated $450 million net worth as an underwear model. With big bucks like that, it's no wonder he went looking for ways to lower his Great Britain tax bill. But one attempt looks like it could cost him. (Billboard photo by torbakhopper via Flickr) Some major sports and entertainment stars face tax bills after United Kingdom tax officials rule a film venture they invested in was a tax avoidance scheme. David Beckham, whose international celebrity status continued beyond the football (soccer for my U.S. readers) pitch (field for my U.S. readers), and his wife... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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I'm generally a cereal person when it comes to breakfast, cold in the summer and the occasional bowl of oatmeal or Malt-O-Meal in those few months when temperatures drop here in Central Texas. Today, though, I'm going to stop by my local doughnut shop. Why the change to the most important meal of the day? It's National Doughnut Day! Or National Donut Day if you're into texting or Twitter and are looking for a character shortcut. In addition to giving me an excuse a reason to munch on a sweetened round of iced dough, today is a chance to acknowledge... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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June is here! Summer. Beaches. Holidays. Weddings. Tax breaks. That's not a non sequitur or the fevered delusions of tax geek. As schools close their doors for a few months and families head out on much-needed vacations, it really is the perfect month to look at some traditional June events and their related tax moves. 1. Batten down the hatches: OK, that's a nautical phrase, but when summer rolls around, landlubbers along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts take it to heart. They don't need a calendar to tell them that the annual hurricane season starts June 1. They... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Most of us suspected it would happen. We just didn't think it would happen so soon. "It" is apparent disregard by some private debt collectors of the rules established in connection with the collection agencies' latest congressionally mandated foray into federal tax collection. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George tells a House Appropriations subcommittee last week of his watchdog agency's concerns about the latest use of private collection agencies to bring in delinquent federal taxes. (Click image to watch full hearing on YouTube.) Private collection agencies are approving installment agreements with delinquent taxpayers beyond what the law... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2017 at Don't Mess With Taxes