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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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Photo via Office of the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General One of the downsides of the Internal Revenue Service closing most of its offices earlier this year as a COVID-19 precaution was that taxpayer returns piled up. And it was a huge pile of mail, estimated at one point to be more than 12 million pieces. Some of that snail mail stack included tax payments. But since they weren't recorded, the compliant taxpayers still got automated tax-due notices. To the agency's credit, when it realized it was sending out erroneous notices demanding already delivered money, it stopped. But now, the... Continue reading
Posted 10 hours ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The continuing COVID-19 chaos, plus an extended 2020 filing season for those coping with this year's natural disaster onslaught, could create more challenges in 2021 for taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service. Are we — and the agency — ready for it? 2020, a year that many of us would just as soon forget, will end in just more than two months. This federal tax filing season, however, will continue for folks who've endured some of the notable natural disasters that have helped make 2020 so terrible. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service issued more disaster-related tax relief in connection... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Don't Mess With Taxes
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While Congress is still, sort of, working on a second round of COVID-19 stimulus payments, the Internal Revenue Service is trying to get the first batch out to people who've yet to collect money for which they're eligible. For the most part, these are individuals who usually don't have to file a tax return. Since the IRS is using this tax filing information to distribute the economic impact payments (EIPs), these non-filers are out of luck. But they can get their data to the IRS by using the agency's online registration tool at the IRS.gov special Non-Filers: Enter Info Here... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Free tax-preparation and filing help is offered through groups like United Way, which partnered with volunteers at this Rutherford County, Tennessee, VITA office. Not only does the IRS train the tax assistors, each year it awards grants to keep the sites running across the country. Meeting your tax responsibilities can be a challenge for many — OK, most — of us. But things can be even more difficult when you can't afford to hire help to finish your returns or your advancing age makes doing your taxes tougher. There are some dedicated volunteers who work every year to meet the... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Uncle Sam is always on the lookout for people who try to evade taxes by hiding money in foreign accounts. To keep track of taxable money abroad, the federal government relies on two agencies, the Internal Revenue Service and its sister agency within the U.S. Treasury, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, usually referred to as FinCEN. FinCEN requires a special filing from some of Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, usually referred to as FBAR. FBAR filings have long been a pain for Americans who hold assets abroad. A couple of years ago, Treasury tried to make... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Wildfire at night by Chenjack via Flickr While millions of taxpayers rushed to finish their 2109 tax filing last week in order to meet the Oct. 15 extended deadline, others weren't concerned about that deadline. They are the individual and business taxpayers who are dealing with something more pressing than taxes. They are trying to pick up the pieces from a major natural disaster. In these catastrophic cases, the Internal Revenue Service usually gives affected taxpayers more time to take care of their tax filing tasks. Some additional West Coast taxpayers have been added to this year's adjusted tax deadline... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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For millions of U.S. workers, this month is the beginning of their benefits open enrollment period. This is your annual chance to switch, adjust or cancel usually tax-free company perks for you and your family. The biggest employer-provided benefit is medical insurance. Health coverage has taken on new importance during the coronavirus pandemic. But companies offer many more options that help make their workers' lives a bit easier and less costly. And many benefits experts expect COVID-19 considerations during this open season to alter the usual trend of workers simply letting existing coverages roll into the new year, which is... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Image by Daniela Hartmann via Flickr I joked on Twitter last week that coronavirus pandemic self-isolation has gotten to me so much that I'm considering buying all the gadgets whose ads keep popping up in my feed as holiday gifts. OK, I half joked. I've always tended to shop online anyway. COVID-19 has just moved me from 95 percent to 100 percent in that direction. And some of the items really are interesting. C'mon, admit it. You, too, wouldn't mind having a solar-power bird bath fountain or a pocket-sized, snowflake-shaped multi-tool. These items are even more appealing when you realize... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Don't Mess With Taxes
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As we approach the Nov. 3 election, the political claims are fast and furious (but without any exciting car escapades … yet). When it comes to taxes, incumbent Donald J. Trump is relying on the tax breaks that were part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that became law in late 2017. It permanently reduced business tax rates and temporarily revised, through 2025, some key individual taxes. Trump and his fellow Republicans are hoping those tax cuts will be enough to fend off Democratic challengers, both at the presidential and Congressional levels. But their hedging their tax bets by... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Robert Smith surprised the 2019 class of Morehouse College graduates with a pledge to pay off their student loans. Watch the happy moment via Bloomberg Quick Take on YouTube. It was one of last year's best feel-good stories. On May 19, 2019, billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert F. Smith promised graduates of Morehouse College listening to his commencement address that he would pay off their college debt. The approximately 400 grads at the historically black college in Atlanta were stunned. Then delighted. And the country cheered Smith's benevolence and commitment to making at least a little bit of the United... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) just gave retirees and other recipients of the program's payments some good news with the announcement of a small hike in their benefits year. Some higher earners, however, aren't so happy. In the same benefits raise announcement, the SSA noted that the amount of income subject to the Social Security payroll withholding also is going up in 2021. This amount, known as the Social Security wage base, is the maximum of earnings, by both salaried workers and the self-employed, that are subject to that portion of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. For the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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My local H-E-B Grocery smartphone app's barcode reader helps me discover the price of a product if it's not shown on the item packaging or store shelf. I love the technology almost as much as I love potato chips! I love my grocery store app. Not only does it offer digital coupons, it lets me make shopping lists, find the aisles where the products I want are located and if there's no price sticker on the item the shelf, I can use the app to scan the package's barcode code for that info. Now the Internal Revenue Service is becoming... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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A quick Social Security note about for folks not yet at or near the benefits age about taxes on that pre-retirement income. More of it, known as the wage base, will be subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Details are in this post. Retirees checking on their investments. The income could make their Social Security benefits taxable. Today's a good day for millions of Social Security recipients. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that benefits will increase a bit next year. Older folks who get regular monthly Social Security payments, along with those who receive Supplemental Security Income... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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It's a bit hard to keep track if you're still isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic, but welcome to another Monday federal holiday. Today is Columbus Day. Yes, it's still an official federal holiday. The White House issued an announcement lauding namesake Christopher Columbus that's getting a lot of pushback on social media from folks who prefer to use this October day to celebrate the United States' indigenous populations. We should use this day to learn about the history of indigenous people. #IndigenousPeoplesDay so for the next 24 hours this account will be a flood of me RTing Native excellence,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Photo by Antonio Quagliata via Pexels.com The presidential election countdown clock it quietly ticking. In most national election years, the tax plans of the candidates get a lot of attention. Obviously, 2020 is not most years. Other things — OK, one thing, COVID-19 — have been the focus on the campaign trail. But it's still worth looking at the tax implications of a possible change in the Oval Office. GOP vs. Democratic plans: The Trump Administration will look to make permanent at least some of the Republicans' 2017 tax reform measure. The White House also has hinted at expanding some... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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John McAfee's banner image on his Twitter account. If you've waiting until the upcoming October extension deadline to file, chances are you wanted the extra time to ensure that you got your filing right. That's smart. Making mistakes or overlooking tax breaks could cost you, not only money but also time if you end up having to answer Internal Revenue Service questions about your filing. And when an audit — or examination as the IRS likes to call the process — definitely doesn't go your way, you could end up in more trouble. That's what happened to John David McAfee.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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A White Walker with an ice spear from the HBO show Game of Thrones. A North Carolina man allegedly took his love of the Game of Thrones books and television program too far. He's been charged by federal officials of trying to steal $6.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans by setting up fake companies, some of which were named after the popular fantasy series, referred to as GoT by its millions of fans. Tristan Bishop Pan of Garner, North Carolina, has been charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions, according to officials with... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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We're exactly one week away from Oct. 15, the day you must finally file your 2019 tax return that you extended earlier this year. Don't miss it. After next Thursday, there's no more time. And the IRS will start adding penalties and interest to any tax you might discover at this late date that you owe. Here are 8 tips and reminders to help you finish filling out that Form 1040 during these next seven days and get it on its way to the Internal Revenue Service by the deadline. 1. Gather all your tax material. OK, time to find... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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There's been one positive for the Internal Revenue Service this coronavirus-affected tax filing season. The agency says that Free File has hit a record percentage increase in new users. And there's still just more than a week before the partnership between the IRS and tax software manufacturers shuts down on Oct. 16. Free, but previously not that popular: The online tax preparation and e-filing products that, as the Free File moniker indicates, allows eligible filers to complete and electronically transmit their tax returns at no cost, has been available since 2003. However, despite the growing popularity of do-it-yourself tax filing... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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An impending tax deadline just got a little less imposing. The Internal Revenue Service is giving people who've yet to register for a COVID-19 economic impact payment (EIP) until Nov. 21 to supply their tax information. The November date is five weeks later than the Oct. 15 deadline the IRS set when it originally sent out letters to the almost 9 million potential stimulus recipients. These individuals didn't file a 2018 or 2019 tax return because they didn't make enough money to require them to do so. However, they still could qualify for some coronavirus relief. But to get the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Millions of U.S. government employees in federal buildings across the country, like this one Sacramento, California, are being forced to participate in the Trump Administration's partial payroll tax deferral. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are continuing their efforts to cobble together a second round of COVID-19 stimulus payments. Some people, however, don't want the ostensible financial relief they're already getting. They are among the federal workers and military members who've had the Social Security portion of their Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll taxes automatically suspended. Forty-three Representatives say they've heard from these constituents who are... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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A panoramic view of the University of Colorado's Folsom Field. The school has a deal worth more than $1.6 million dollars with an Australian sportsbook. (Photo by MECU via Wikipedia Commons) I hope your college football teams did better than mine did yesterday. I also hope that if you placed any bets on any National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) games, your selections netted you some extra cash. My aforementioned reference to the sad play of my teams is why I don't bet on sports, college or pro. But many people have been wagering legally on amateur college competitions since the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Plus, tips on maximizing yard sales and holding safe events during a pandemic. When I went out to get the paper from our driveway this morning, I was puzzled by the amount of traffic on our usually quiet neighborhood street. Especially since it's Saturday. Then I remembered that it was our annual fall community garage sale day. Actually, it's our only community garage sale day this year. The spring 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. And while my immediate neighbors aren't big sellers of their old items, a few tend to participate. This year, though, the cars were... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Donald J. Trump posted this photo in 2016 on Twitter, saying it represented the size of his tax return filing. When we got a glimpse of Donald J. Trump's federal 2005 tax year filing back in 2017, one thing was very clear. Trump's personal tax situation is why during his initial presidential campaign he called for the elimination of the federal Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The New York Times' recent exposé of more than two decades of Trump tax information, underscores his adversarial relationship with this parallel tax system. In the few years that Trump did pay federal income tax,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes
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Hello, October! You're always welcome at my house. I love your cooler temperatures that let me open windows and doors and put an end to exorbitant air conditioning costs. I love the color changes of trees and shrubs. And I love the candy that I accidentally (really!) over-buy in preparation for the young ghouls and goblins that knock on our front door each Oct. 31. I suspect I'm not alone in appreciating the arrival of autumn. But amid all these annual fall festivities, we need to make at least a few tax moves that could help out our upcoming tax... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2020 at Don't Mess With Taxes