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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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Elizabeth Warren is a leader among Democratic presidential nominees in calling for a variety of new and increased taxes on the wealthy. (Photo courtesy Warren's Facebook page) Many of the folks trying to become the Democrat to challenge Donald J. Trump in 2020 support raising taxes on the wealthy. It's a popular U.S. campaign rallying cry, but globally, such taxes on net worth are vanishing. All for taking from the rich: The Democratic Party is bucking the global dying wealth tax trend. One of its top goals remains raising the top ordinary income tax rate, which the Tax Cuts and... Continue reading
Posted 6 hours ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Arizona home to be auctioned to pay federal tax debt. I've seen a lot of estate sale signs lately. Either it's an indication of the changing demographics of my part of Austin or folks are trying to fancy up their garage sales. An estate (or renamed garage) sale basically is a way to dispose of most of an owner's property either because family doesn't want their deceased relative's items or the goods need to be sold to make a move easier. Uncle Sam regularly holds his own versions, but in many instances these government sales are to settle tax debts.... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Colorful houses, like these in Sisimiut, Greenland's second largest city that sits on Kangerluarsunnguaq Bay below Palasip Qaqqaa mountain, are found all across Greenland. (Photo by Algkalv via Wikipedia Commons) Sorry, United States, but Greenland doesn't want to become part of us. Yes, the U.S. buying the world's biggest island is, or rather, was a thing. Donald J. Trump, true to his real estate development roots, has broached the possibility of Greenland, according to The Wall Street Journal. People familiar with the discussion, reports the newspaper, said Trump has, "with varying degrees of seriousness, repeatedly expressed interest in buying the... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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With markets down, it could be time to harvest tax losses or perhaps convert a traditional IRA to a Roth retirement account. What's scarier than Superman, the 415-foot tower roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, that hits triple digit speeds? Some investors might say the recent stock market gyrations. (Photo courtesy Six Flags) Is the recent stock market drop freaking you out? How about the roller coaster ride back up, at least for a while, today? Yeah, it's worse than many stomach-churning amusement park rides and I'm right there, holding a barf bag, with you. But... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The tax law changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and its effect on withholding wreaked havoc this filing season. Some folks found, much to their dismay (and stronger reactions…) that for the first time in their tax-paying lives they owed taxes because they didn't have enough tax withheld from their paychecks. The Internal Revenue Service saw this coming. It tried to warn folks, encouraging them to adjust their withholding so that they wouldn't face this predicament. Then the IRS announced an easing of the penalty owed if you under withheld. Twice. Now, with the 2019 tax season... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Click screenshot to watch Sen. Rick Scott's full discussion on CNBC of the U.S.-China trade war and his tariff tax break suggestion. Everyone except trade warrior Donald J. Trump views tariffs as taxes on consumers. To offset tariffs' added costs to U.S. buyers, one Republican lawmaker is calling for a corresponding tax cut. "Anything we raise in tariffs we ought to give back to the public in tax reductions so that it doesn't impact American families," Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said Monday (Aug. 12) during an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box. The Sunshine State's junior U.S. Senator didn't provide... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The Internal Revenue Service is continuing to tweak tax forms, releasing yet another version of the document workers use to figure out their paycheck withholding. The new draft of Form W-4, updated as of Aug. 8 and shown below, incorporated suggestions that Treasury and the IRS got on the version it made public at the end of May. The changes are being made (again) to ensure that taxpayers adjust their withholding to most accurately reflect the tax code changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Click image to see the full Aug. 8, 2019, draft 2020 Form... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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This February 2016 photo on Twitter of Donald J. Trump signing a tax return is one of the few, and unrevealing, looks we've gotten of his federal filings. The focus of Donald J. Trump and his White House change quickly. Issues that were boiling over just days ago quickly get pushed to a back burner by something else that's hotter. But some of those old topics are still simmering. And one of them, Trump's tax returns, saw the heat turned up a bit recently. It was, however, a former college student, not Trump, who was put on the hot spot.... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Oops! Someone at Topps was thinking about someone else when Shane, not Justin, Bieber's baseball card was produced. Did your mom throw out your baseball card collection when you went off to college? If so, you can start anew today, National Baseball Card Day, by picking up some brand spanking new cards. The Topps Company, the official trading card partner of Major League Baseball, is celebrating today by giving out free specially-made cards at MLB stadiums across the country, local hobby shops and a couple of major retailers. The new packs feature MLB stars and up-and-coming rookies. Lucky fans also... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Many things, like family considerations, prompt people to go into business for themselves. Whatever your reason for being your own boss, here are some tax matters to consider. The millions of taxpayers who hold wage-paying jobs where income taxes are withheld from their checks obviously will benefit from the Internal Revenue Service new tax withholding estimator. But what if you don't have a job where there's withholding? That's the case for millions of individuals who are self-employed See Also: 5 things to consider if you're thinking about becoming an independent contractor The work freedom of being your own boss comes... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Members of the Upper Chamber of Congress are relying on the power of the pen in their battle to obtain or stop the proposed indexing of capital gains to inflation. Republicans and now Democrats have written letters to the Treasury Department making their opposing cases for the broadening of this tax break. A year's wait: Last summer, the Trump Administration began exploring its options when it comes to indexing capital gains. Currently, capital gains on long-term assets are taxed at generally lower rates. The top 20 percent capital gains tax rate is particularly appealing to wealthy investors, who face a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Paycheck withholding is most Americans' introduction to taxes. But even though millions of us have been seeing income taxes come out of our checks for years, the system still is confusing for many. It became a bigger mess this filing season, when folks filed their first tax returns under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes. A lot of them were not amused. The unexpected price of wrong withholding: They discovered that they weren't getting the same big tax refunds they had in prior years. These annual spring payouts had served as distributions from their withholding tax deposits to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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After the vigils for victims of mass tragedies, efforts to help the victims and survivors appear. Make sure your gifts to such campaigns, especially online crowdfunding ones, go to those who need help and not scammers. (Photo by Catholic Church of England, Mazur/CatholicNewsUK via Flickr CC) Gilroy, California. El Paso, Texas. Dayton, Ohio. In an eight-day span, three separate shootings by lone gunmen in these cities left a total of 35 people dead, 54 injured. Residents in these cities are dealing with unspeakable horror and grief. Most of the rest of us in the United States and across the world... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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It's been a summer of change for my neighborhood. Several of our neighbors have moved, including our next-door neighbors that I really liked. My former suburban Austinites are heading off to new jobs, other subdivisions they've discovered or to be closer to families across the state or country. A few also decided it was time to cash in on the rising property values of our neighborhood. I must admit, that's crossed my mind, but then I think moving and … Summer is prime moving time regardless of the reasons. Things tend to slow down at workplaces, giving you more time... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard via Twitter Today is the birthday of one of America's earliest tax collectors, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). That's right. The force that we know as the coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces had its beginnings as Revenue Marine. It was created by Alexander Hamilton on this day 229 years ago. Its job was to collect taxes at U.S. seaports. Lin-Manuel Miranda did drop a few tax references into his smash Broadway musical, but unfortunately for us tax and seafaring geeks, he didn't elaborate on our first Treasury... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The legendary outlaw Robin Hood, memorialized in this statue in Nottingham, England, took from the rich and gave to the poor. Nowadays, politicians offer Robin Hood style tax plans that increase levies on the wealthy to fund programs for lower income citizens. (Photo by sculptor James Woodford via Wikipedia Commons) If you've been following the cadre of campaigners for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, you know that several White House wannabes have offered tax plans calling for various tax hikes on richer Americans. The latest is from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose catch-all plan basically would, in... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Poland has many historical sites, such as Wawel Castle in Kraków. But young Poles are more interested in their futures than the past. They have been leaving the country in droves to find work. Polish officials hope a dramatic new tax law will change that emigration pattern. (Photo by Zespol Wzgórza Wawelskiego via Wikipedia Commons) Donald J. Trump and many of his supporters have been worrying for years about people wanting to come into the United States. Many European countries also have been pulling up their welcome mats when immigrants approach their borders. One nation, however, is concerned about the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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August is here, but few of us have put out the welcome mat. The eighth month of the year tends to be one of the hottest of the year. Most of the summer's fun events have come and gone. And school is about to start. OK, that last point is a positive for many parents who are running out of patience with the kids being underfoot all the time. Those moms, dads and all other shoppers in 13 states at least will get some state sales tax holidays to make this muggy month a bit more tolerable. Those tax-free events... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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National Taxpayer Advocated Nina E. Olson today departs the Internal Revenue Service watchdog office she's held since 2001. An acting advocate, Bridget Roberts, has been named until the position is filled full-time. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson makes a point, here expressing her concerns about private tax debt collection (you can watch her full testimony at the official video), during one of her many Capitol Hill appearances during her almost two decades as an IRS watchdog. Goodbye and thanks to Nina E. Olson. Today, July 31, is her last as National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA). She is retiring from government... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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A co-owner of MLB's Chicago Cubs is facing major real estate tax bills. (Photo by Dave Sizer via Flickr CC) The one and only Major League Baseball trade deadline is almost here. It's 3 p.m. July 31, in case you're waiting for your team to get that one player who'll help win a pennant or more. Most owners are focusing on how much money they're willing to spend to get that key player (or players). Todd Ricketts, however, has another money matter on his mind. The co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, who are duking it out with the St. Louis... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Kissing up to the IRS, on this National Lipstick Day or any other, won't help with dubious business expense claims. Your work-related expenses must be ordinary and necessary. My collection of lip colorings, mostly unused since I began working from home. When I quit working in an office, I quit regularly applying makeup. Now I only pull out the mascara and powder and lipstick when I have an in-person meeting or must make a media appearance. So today, National Lipstick Day, really isn't a big deal for me. Others, however, are celebrating, especially by taking advantage of the lipstick deals,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Historic Saratoga Race Track main stands as depicted on a 1907 postcard. (Scanned by Dave Parker; available via Wikipedia Commons) Remember Tax, the horse that ran in this year's Kentucky Derby? The 3-year old gelding didn't fare so well at Churchill Downs, coming in 14th. He did better in another Triple Crown race, coming in 4th in the Belmont Stakes. On Saturday, July 27, Tax finally notched another win. Tax pulls off the upset in the G2 $600K Jim Dandy! pic.twitter.com/AAmPOqwBiz — TVG (@TVG) July 27, 2019 He took the Jim Dandy in Saratoga Springs, New York. It was Tax's... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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We're halfway through the second year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and its effects, pro and con, are still being debated. Some of those disputes will play out in court, like the latest challenge to the tax reform law's limits on federal tax deductions for state and local taxes (SALT). This latest SALT legal action, brought by New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, was prompted by Treasury's and the Internal Revenue Service's regulation, finalized last month, that effectively guts the charitable workarounds these states had created to provide their residents full federal tax benefit of their state... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Bitcoin and other virtual currencies fascinate me, but that's as far as it goes. I don't own and have never had any interest in cryptocurrencies. I'm basically a say it with cash kind of gal. Part of my crypto trepidation is that I've yet to grasp how Bitcoin is mined, despite the hubby's patient, and repeated, explanations. And like many Senators during a recent hearing on Facebook's proposed Libra digital money, I'm skeptical of the concept (as well as suspicious of the online social media platform proposing it, but that's another blog post). My disavowal of cryptocurrency, however, has been... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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In remarks on the Senate Floor, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley used visual aides to illustrate all the sectors of the U.S. economy he says benefit from the expired tax breaks known as extenders. Click image to watch Grassley's full comments via YouTube. Many Congressional actions often are viewed as cartoonish, but the Senate's leading tax writer actually invoked a classic Sunday funnies image to describe the current status of more than two dozen tax breaks. "I remain committed to acting as soon as possible so taxpayers who have relied on these provisions in 2018 don’t end up feeling... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2019 at Don't Mess With Taxes