Shock jock Howard Stern's candid conversations with guests are one of his show's more popular features. Folks who talk to Stern, including the current Oval Office resident, willingly reveal TMI. One on-air exchange, however, resulted in inadvertent revelation of some of a Massachusetts woman's personal tax information and a subsequent lawsuit against Stern and Uncle Sam. As I noted back in May 2015, she was discussing her overdue tax bill with an Internal Revenue Service agent who had, on another line, called into Stern's satellite radio show. When Stern went live with the tax collector's on-hold call, the IRS agent's... Read more →

When we pay a tax pro for help, we trust that person. Sometimes we shouldn't. Most of use tax professionals to help get through tax season. Thankfully, most paid tax preparers are honest. They want to help their clients meet their tax responsibilities by legally paying the least amount of tax possible under the Internal Revenue Code. But most is not all. Some tax preparers run fly-by-night operations where they simply look to make a quick buck off of honest individuals seeking tax assistance. These pros, and I use the description advisedly, often get paid based on a percentage of... Read more →

There are so many tax scams out there that it takes more than one post to cover them. Three posts, to be precise. This is Part 3 of the Internal Revenue Service's 2018 list of the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. Your promised tax savings can be quickly washed away if you put your money into an abusive offshore tax shelter. This is it, a look at the final group of scams that crooks are using again this tax year to try to take our money. The final four schemes in this post, numbers 9 through 12, are like those in... Read more →

I am so, so sorry my dear friends in the MidAtlantic and Northeastern United States. I know you're looking at possibly more snow with the fourth nor'easter in three weeks forecast to hit your areas in a few days. Here in Central Texas and other parts of the country, however, spring has officially arrived! My Texas neighbors and I are enjoying the seasonal wildflowers. Thank you, Lady Bird Johnson! (Photo by Kay Bell) It's also the traditional time for cleaning up and clearing out your house. Some of those old and/or unused items can be tossed. Others, however, are in... Read more →

Energy-efficient skylights installed in 2017 could provide homeowners some savings thanks to a recently renewed tax credit. Congress slipped some expired tax breaks into the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 enacted back in February. That was good news for taxpayers who can claim these tax breaks, but it set off a mad scramble within the Internal Revenue Service. Playing processing catch-up: Uncle Sam's tax agency had to dig out and update the appropriate forms and then re-set its processing systems to handle them. And all this had to be done while the 2018 tax-filing season was already underway. The IRS... Read more →

Internet shopping is now the preferred purchasing method for millions. Just ask Toys R Us, which has blamed its decision to shutter its operations largely on losses to remote sellers. But the taxation of products bought online is still a mish-mash of state laws. That could change in a few months depending on what the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decides in a high-profile remote sales tax case. The oral arguments in the case, South Dakota vs. Wayfair, are set for April 17, which just happens to be this year's federal tax return filing deadline. SCOTUS' decision is... Read more →

Luxury suites provide fans with more than just views of sporting events. Some companies use these special accommodations to woo or reward high-dollar customers. However, a new tax law limiting the deductibility of such entertainment could end or limit these and similar business expenditures. (AT&T Stadium luxury box photo courtesy SuiteHop via Facebook) The arenas where the NCAA's March Madness college basketball games are being played have luxury box seats where the seat owners used to entertain existing and potential high-dollar clients. I say "used to" because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that took effect this year could,... Read more →

A view of Connemara, along Ireland's west coast, by Fred Bigio via Flickr CC. St. Patrick's Day is almost here, but it's not the lush Kelly green landscapes of the Emerald Isle we taxpayers are thinking about right now. We want to know ways to save some greenbacks on our taxes. Inspired by the man brave enough, at least in myth, to face down snakes and the March 17th day we honor him, here are 17 ways to round up some tax savings from the almost as scary U.S. tax code. 1. Non-cash charitable gifts: If you gave household goods... Read more →

Cover photo from 2017 report Offshore Shell Games by ITEP and PIRG Offshore tax havens. The phrase immediate conjures up images of dubious financial guys who've traded in their high-powered jobs and three-piece suits for floral print shirts and umbrella-shaded drinks on a tropical beach, all funded by cash they stashed in island-based accounts, hidden from the U.S. tax collector. Sometimes that's true. Everyone knows by now of the scrutiny given to Cayman Island banks, as well as the hidden accounts revealed by the Panama Papers. But offshore in Internal Revenue Service parlance means any location outside United States boundaries.... Read more →

Doing taxes is all about the numbers. The forms require our Social Security number and that of our spouse and dependent children. Similar identification digits also are key on tax forms from, for example, our employers and other entities that contribute to our taxable income. And, of course, we have to put in all those figures about our earnings and subtract the numbers in the form of expenses and deductions and credits to get to the most important amount of all, our final tax bill. Today's the 30th anniversary of the math-inspired unofficial holiday Pi Day is a good time... Read more →

Winter will just not let go this year. The Northeast has been pummeled by three northeasters in 11 days. The consecutive blizzards make everything difficult, including doing taxes. That's why the Internal Revenue Service is giving businesses affected by the storms some extra time. Business returns are due Thursday, March 15. If, however, those filers cannot get their tax year 2017 taxes done by then, the IRS says they can request an automatic extension by filing Form 7004, on or before Tuesday, March 20. Form 7004, available on, provides a six-month extension to complete the Forms 1065 and 1065-B... Read more →

There are so many tax scams out there that it takes more than one post. Three, to be precise. This is Part 2 of the Internal Revenue Service's 2018 list of the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. The four schemes in this post, numbers 5 through 8, are like those in the initial 2018 Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2018. They also are repeat (dis)honorees. That's because once crooks find something that works, they keep using it. And sadly, there are enough new victims out there every year to fall for it. Unless potential targets are warned. To do that and... Read more →

Don't hate losing an hour to Daylight Saving Time. The clock change, along with charitable donations, could save koalas and other wildlife. (Photo by Arnaud Gaillard via Wikipedia CC) How are y'all feeling after losing that hour of sleep last night, or rather early this morning? Me, not so good. I'm apparently among that group of folks who experience headaches when our circadian rhythms are affected by going in and out of Daylight Saving Time (DST). But at least it's not a heart attack, which some studies have shown increase a bit during the first three weekdays following clocks' springing... Read more →

Spring training games are wonderfully leisurely, at least for the fans. But Major League Baseball is a big business and some of its practices could be negatively affected by the new tax law. (Photo courtesy Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau) One of the good things about tax-filing season's timing is that it and Major League Baseball's spring training overlap a bit. That means when my head is about to explode from the hassles of taxes, I can take a break and catch some of the Boys of Summer preparations. The February and March games in Florida and Arizona are... Read more →

Photo by 401(k) 2012 via Flickr The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) prompted the Internal Revenue Service this week to reissue some tax-related inflation adjustments. However, one area was not affected by the TCJA's provisions. The amounts you can contribute in 2018 to your tax-favored retirement accounts did not change. There are two reasons for the retirement amounts' status quo. First, despite some Congressional discussions about changing retirement plans early in the tax bill's formulation, those proposals were dropped after much public outcry. (Sometimes our elected leaders do hear us!) Also, while the TCJA did change the tax-related inflation... Read more →

Photo by GotCredit via Flickr CC It's hard for most of us to believe, but every year some folks who are due federal tax refunds do not file returns with the Internal Revenue Service. If they ignore those filings for more than three years, then Uncle Sam gets to keep the money permanently. Right now, though, the U.S. Treasury is just holding the unclaimed tax refunds — a total of $1.1 billion. That's how much cash the estimated 1 million taxpayers who didn't file a tax year 2014 Form 1040 back in 2015 could be kissing goodbye. They have until... Read more →

Are you still waiting to file your taxes because you want additional guidance from the Internal Revenue Service about the 2018 property taxes you prepaid last year? You are not alone. A group of Democratic lawmakers, some of who met with the acting head of the IRS last month on this topic, are continuing to press the agency for a final rule about this deduction that was reduced under the newly enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The latest demand for deduction clarification came earlier this week when some Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee sent Acting IRS... Read more →