The National Taxpayer Advocate is not giving up on her quest to ensure that digital enhancements to Internal Revenue Service efforts are just that and not replacements for current, lower-tech taxpayer service offerings. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson discussed IRS customer service in March in advance of the April filing deadline. Click image to watch the full video at C-SPAN. Nina E. Olson has previously raised questions about increased computerization of IRS customer service options. She's concerned that those not comfortable with conducting business on a computer or other digital device will be inconvenienced or worse. Those with limited... Read more →


Music is important to me. I took piano lessons as a kid and even survived some formal recitals and special performances in elementary school. In junior high (that's what we called middle school in my day) and high school, I played the clarinet in school bands. A couple of friends (shout out to Sabrina and Rebecca) and I even won a 2nd place medal for our reed trio's performance at a Texas UIL competition. I long ago put my instruments away, but nowadays I am a polished listener of tunes, all sorts of tunes. Music plays a role in my... Read more →


Ezekiel Elliott's visit to a Seattle marijuana retailer was the big weed news this week, and yes, pot has received lots of headlines lately (more on this a little later). Apparently amazed visitors to the cannabis display at the Oregon State Fair in Salem, the first time pot plants have been open for public viewing at any U.S. state fair. This is just one piece of pot news so far this month. Click image to view the AP video via USA Today. I admit that as a Dallas Cowboys fan, I spent an inordinate amount of time following the first-round... Read more →


One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Someone just became an identity theft victim. The stealing of an individual's personal data happens every two seconds. That alarming criminal frequency was part of an Internal Revenue Service presentation on ID theft and tax refund fraud during the agency's Nationwide Tax Forum this week in National Harbor, Maryland, just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. The good news, from a tax standpoint, is that that most of those 30* ID thefts per minute are by crooks seeking credit card information. In fact, credit card related identity theft has been the #1 complaint on the Federal... Read more →


We enjoyed many good years in South Florida, but this time of year, I'm glad we moved back to Texas. Central, not coastal, Texas. Clean-up is underway in Zachary, Louisiana, after flooding earlier this month, but more rains from a system that could grow into a tropical storm could be headed toward the Gulf Coast. (Photo courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency/FEMA) The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1, but mid-August to mid-September is the peak storm period. This year looks to be on the usual track. Hermine on the way? Storm 99, right now a rather unorganized a low... Read more →


Not to pile on Donald Trump, even though he makes himself such an easy target so often, but there's another person saying he should show us his tax returns. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, during his Aug. 24 appearance on CNN's The Lead, joined the chorus of Republicans calling on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to be more transparent about his wealth and health. And it's another member of his own political party (again) . Oversight chief sets sights on Trump: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is used to going after high-profile folks. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee has been seeking... Read more →


"I can't define tax evasion, but I know it when I see it," Fred T. Goldberg Jr. once said. Fred Goldberg, in his capacity as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy, the position he took immediately after leaving his IRS commissioner post, answers questions from the Joint Committee on Taxation in February 1992. (Click image to view the full video of the hearing via C-SPAN.) Now I'm not saying that Goldberg, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service from 1989 to 1992, was thinking about his adaptation of the legendary Supreme Court "I know it when I see it"... Read more →


I have allergies, but they are just the run-of-the-mill inconveniences -- sniffles, sneezing, red eyes. Neither my life nor those of my loved ones depend on immediate treatment for an allergic reaction. Photo by Tokyogirl79 via Wikipedia Folks who rely on EpiPens, however, are in a really terrible place right now. EpiPen price increases: These injectable devices deliver a pre-measured dose of epinephrine (adrenaline) to people who are having a potentially deadly allergic reaction. The shot reverses anaphylaxis, which is the swelling, closing of the airways and other symptoms suffered by many who are allergic to bee stings, peanuts or... Read more →


It was a good Summer Olympics in Rio not only for Team USA, which won 121 medals, but also for Nike. A Nike factory store (NikeFactoryStoreVaughanMills_Wikimedia) The Oregon-based athletic apparel and shoe maker got lots of attention for its neon yellow/green shoes that most of the U.S. athletes sported on track and atop assorted medal podiums. Now, however, Nike is in an unwanted tax spotlight. Nike vs. IRS: Nike Inc. is fighting a nearly $223 million tax deficiency notice from the Internal Revenue Service. Uncle Sam's tax collector says the company owes the money after the agency rejected the way... Read more →


It was an incredibly successful 2016 Summer Olympics for U.S. athletes. Ashton Eaton won one of Team USA's 46 gold medals in Rio, winning the 2016 Olympic Decathlon and again earning the title of world's best all-around athlete. He first won decathlon gold in London in 2012. (Click image to watch NBC coverage of Eaton's medal ceremony.) Overall, American competitors won 121 medals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Gold medallions were bestowed on U.S. Olympians in 46 events. The country won another 37 silver medals and 38 bronze. The next closest medal-winning country was China, with 70. Right now, those... Read more →


Almost 7 trillion gallons of rain in just one week across Louisiana produced the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. A Mississippi Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter delivers sandbags to the levee near the Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, on Aug. 16, 2016. Click image to view the video and learn more about Mississippi's aide to its neighbor. "This disaster is the worst to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, and we anticipate it will cost at least $30 million -- a number which may grow as we learn more about the... Read more →


Need time to pay off a big tax bill? It could cost you a lot more next year if fee hikes proposed by the Internal Revenue Service go into effect. The IRS today announced plans to add a couple of new installment plan options and increase existing payment arrangement fees beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Some taxpayers could see an 87.5 percent price hike, which would produce a top fee of $225 instead of the current maximum fee of $120. And while the proposed $225 fee is the top dollar amount, the charge for another type of installment payment option would... Read more →


Apple CEO Tim Cook is not apologizing for the corporate tax strategies that the California-based multinational technology giant employs. Apple's headquarters is in Cupertino, California, but it takes maximum advantage of international tax breaks. (Photo by Joe Ravi, license via CC-BY-SA 3.0) U.S. tax law currently allows Apple and a slew of other global enterprises to keep money overseas and not pay tax on it until the funds are brought back, or repatriated. "And when we bring it back, we will pay 35 percent federal tax and then a weighted average across the states that we're in, which is about... Read more →


Saving soon and often for your or your children's college education is critical. But just as important as putting away higher education money is knowing when to take out that college fund cash. 529 plan benefits, possible pitfalls: This is especially true of the tax-favored 529 plans that states offer. Your deposits to a 529 plan are not tax deductible, but the funds grow tax-free. And when you or your child withdraws the money, there's no tax bill as long as you use the funds to pay for qualifying college costs. Withdrawing 529 money, however, is not as simple as... Read more →


One of the things I always suggest to folks who are having tax trouble, be it with filling out a return or dealing with Internal Revenue Service questions about an already filed 1040, is to consult a tax professional. By tax professional, I mean a qualified, reputable person who's up to date on the tax laws and who will help clients comply with them in a legal way that also produces the lowest possible tax liability. Every tax pro I know personally falls into this category. So do, based on what I've read by and digitally discussed with them over... Read more →


Torrential rains have produced deadly flooding across central Louisiana. In response to the historic downpours, the Internal Revenue Service today announced that storm victims will have until Jan. 17, 2017, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. Folks who are affiliated with recognized government or philanthropic organizations and helping in the Louisiana relief effort also qualify for the special IRS tax treatment. Official disaster areas: The IRS move comes after President Barack Obama declared rain-soaked parts of the Pelican State major disaster areas. These include East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena and Tangipahoa parishes.... Read more →


Only one thing is worse than getting a notice from the tax collector. Getting a notice that says you owe. OK, there is something that's even worse. That's the tax man telling you that you owe $18.4 trillion dollars. The United Kingdom's tax office recently sent a British taxpayer a notice saying he owed trillions. He handled the apparently erroneous tax bill notice in the right way. (Photo by Images Money via Flickr Creative Commons) Yes, trillion with a T. An amount with at least 13 digits before the decimal point. That's what happened this month to Giles Hembrough. Britsh... Read more →