Photo by Katina Rogers via Flickr CC Most of us will spend time with family this Thanksgiving. If the gathering includes an aging parent (or two), it's a good time to gauge how they're doing. Now I'm not advocating a full diagnostic discussion. That's not only a bit intrusive, but such conversations probably will start fights if your family is anything like mine. My 80-something mom simply refuses to acknowledge that she's 80-something and that entering her eighth decade presents some limitations. And by refuses to acknowledge, I mean she dives head-first into vehement and lengthy denials. This is not... Read more →


It's almost Thanksgiving. You know what that means. It's almost Black Friday. This day-after-Thanksgiving ostensible bargain bonanza is still popular even with the growth of online shopping. Shoppers looking for Black Friday deals in Linton, Indiana. (Photo by yancy9 via Flickr) Spending expected to increase: Consumer spending over the Black Friday weekend is expected to increase by 47 percent from the same period in 2016, according to a recent RetailMeNot survey. Consumers plan to spend an average of $743 this year during the weekend that runs from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. That figure is up from an average of... Read more →


It's going to be a mixed Thanksgiving in Internal Revenue Service households. The agency definitely won't be thankful for the Senate funding bill released on Nov. 20. That Financial Services & General Government Appropriations measure proposes the IRS get $11.1 billion in fiscal year 2018. That's $149 million less than it received for the 2017 fiscal year. However, the IRS can be grateful that the funding is close to the $11.235 billion that then IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the agency needs to maintain its current performance levels. And it's $111 million more than what Donald J. Trump's budget recommended... Read more →


John Koskinen's days of giving formal testimony as head of the IRS ended when his commissioner term concluded earlier this month. However, an interview he gave the week after leaving the tax agency post has raised questions about Donald Trump's tax returns and taxpayer privacy. Remember Donald J. Trump's tax returns? Those he said during the campaign that he'd share with America as soon as the IRS completed its audit of them? Well, we still don't know if the IRS has finished examining those prior year filings, but apparently Trump did sometime this year file his 2016 taxes. The Administration... Read more →


Fifteen Chicago-area men have had their names, and legal records, cleared. If they eventually get monetary restitution for the time they spent in jail for crimes they didn't commit, they also could get some tax relief. (Click CNN screenshot for full story.) "I'm innocent!" That post-conviction proclamation by many now behind bars is greeted by the strict law-and-order crowd with cynical eye-rolling. But in the case of at least 15 Chicago-area men, protestations that they didn't commit the crimes for which they did the time were true. And if these fully, officially, legally not guilty men ever receive compensation for... Read more →


As a wife of many years, I appreciate it when a couple likes to share big moments. But such spousal closeness backfired spectacularly when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brought his wife, Louise Linton, with him when he went to check out his signature that's now appearing on U.S. currency. But before we get to the drama, let's look at the changes coming to our dollars. Handwriting gets grade A: The good news for Mnuchin is that while folks still might have trouble pronouncing his name, they can at least read his signature. That's more that can be said for his... Read more →


Nothing says Merry Christmas like the disembodied Santa head lights (click for a closer, clearer view) that brighten our fireplace hearth each holiday season. (Please ignore my reflected selfie!) And yes, this and other Christmas decorations are already, before Thanksgiving, up at our house! Ho, Ho, Ho! I know we've yet to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I can tell that Christmas is near, too. How? Well, in addition to having already decorated our house (interior only so far for us, but ho-ho-holiday lights are already on some of our neighbors' houses) for Santa's annual arrival, I'm getting the usual year-end flood... Read more →


In their initial tax reform bills, the House and Senate decided not to include any health care provisions so as not to muddy the tax code rewrite waters. Now, however, Senate leaders have changed their minds. Repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate has been added to the upper chamber's tax plan. While that does provide needed money maneuverability, it also could turn tax reform into a legislative mud pie mess. The House is still on track to pass its tax reform bill this evening has passed its tax reform bill, but things are much less settled in the Senate. A... Read more →


UPDATE, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017: The House passed its tax reform bill today (but the Senate version is still a ways away from GOP consensus ). Among the yea voters on H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was Rep. Joe Barton after he was promised that his Texas Rangers stadium concerns would be taken care of. Rep. Joe Barton is a big fan of the Texas Rangers, which play in his North Texas Congressional District. In this Facebook photo, Barton (second from left) wears the Major League Baseball club's jersey when he participates in the annual Republicans vs.... Read more →


CBS/NFL clip via Giphy.com Any sports fan will tell you that penalties often ruin not only their teams' chances of winning, but also make the game itself worse. Taxes certainly aren't a game, but penalties in this part of our financial lives also are frustrating. Worse, they can be costly, to both taxpayers and the tax professionals they hire for filing help. Some tax penalties are set by law. Others are adjusted each year because of inflation. Penalties add more to tax bills: Paying taxes is bad enough. Paying a penalty for not filing on time makes that worse. Recent... Read more →


Republicans continue to work on their tax reform bills. The House plans/hopes to vote on its bill this week, while the Senate's version, released Nov. 9, is still being analyzed. One area getting a lot of attention is the two bill's differing treatments of pass-through entities. Income from these businesses — which include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLC) and S-corporations — is passed through to the business owners, who then report it on their personal tax returns. The issue confronting lawmakers is that these earnings currently are taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Under the new tax reform... Read more →


One of the surprise differences in the Senate tax plan as compared to the House bill is in the treatment of state and local taxes, referred to by tax geeks (guilty!) as SALT. Both the House and Senate tax bills would eliminate the deductions for state and local income and sales taxes. The Senate, however, makes no accommodation for real estate taxes. That hard tax line also was originally taken by the House. But GOP leaders there, facing backlash from their members in districts where voters pay big real estate tax bills, acquiesced. The House bill revision allows the property... Read more →


Across America, special thanks go out this Veterans Day to all the men and women who courageously put on uniforms and served our country whenever and wherever called. But once those proudly-worn uniforms are packed away, former U.S. military members need more than just gratitude. Millions of soldiers, sailors, pilots and National Guard members need our support and help as they return to civilian life. That's why this 11/11 Shout Out Saturday goes to MartketWatch's financial checklist for former military members. And since you come here for tax talk, I don't want to disappoint. Here are a couple of tax... Read more →


The tax dueling has officially begun. The Senate on Thursday, Nov. 9, released its answer to the House's H.R. 1, officially title the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. UPDATE, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017: The House passed H.R. 1. Prospects for the Senate's tax reform bill, however, are muddier. While resolving difference in the two doesn't demand quite as many steps as in the 10 Duel Commandments outlined in the still incredibly popular Broadway (and touring company) musical Hamilton, it's still going to be one of the biggest face-offs in recent Washington, D.C., legislative history. Here's a look at some of... Read more →


IRS Commissioner John Koskinen makes a point during a Congressional hearing. John Koskinen did it! He survived his term as Internal Revenue Service Commissioner. Today is the last day for the tax agency's 48th commissioner. Officially, his term expires on Sunday, Nov. 12. Since Friday, Nov. 10, is the federal Veterans Day holiday, today is the last day Koskinen will come into his office in downtown Washington, D.C. It was not an easy four years. Fighting to keep the job: Koskinen came to the job in December 2013 while it was in the midst of the politically charges and polarizing... Read more →


Globally, the United States doesn't make the top 10 places people from other countries want to move. It came in 43rd in Internations' latest survey, as reported by the World Economic Forum. Maybe it's because of our tax system. People definitely are peripatetic. Millions of us move every year, with around 56 million crossing national borders to new homes. But there's one thing Americans who go abroad, be it for work or purely personal reasons (love and adventure join career as the top three reasons for expatriation), cannot leave behind. The U.S. tax code. Because Uncle Sam relies on a... Read more →


Nov. 18 is the last day this year that the Internal Revenue Service will accept electronically filed tax returns. Wait, you say. Didn't the final deadline for sending in 2016 returns come and go on Oct. 16? You are correct, tax savvy calendar watchers. But folks who were granted an extension to file until Jan. 31, 2018, might be able to take advantage of the extended e-file option. Disaster-related added time: The Jan. 31 deadline applies to millions of taxpayers who live in what this year was declared a federal disaster area and who got a six-month extension to file... Read more →