José Altuve, Major League Baseball's 2017 MVP, heads to the podium in Houston's Minute Maid Park to get his 2017 World Series ring at the Astros' home opener on April 2, 2018. Yes, my photo is blurry, but the stadium was rocking! Football season is here. Professional, college and high school teams have all taken the field for games that finally count. But some of us are still watching baseball. Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs are nearing and there are tight division and wildcard (don't email me baseball purists; it is what it is) races, some of which will come... Read more →


House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) was among GOP leaders who celebrated the six-month anniversary of the party's tax reform bill back in June. Now he and other Republicans want to expand that bill by the end of September. We're still waiting for clarification of many of the new tax laws in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). In fact, some say we need clarification of clarifications; have you tried to decipher the new 199A business deduction even with the Internal Revenue Service guidance? But such lingering TCJA questions are not stopping Republican leaders from trying... Read more →


There won't be many bets on the Dallas Cowboys to win the Super Bowl next February. Odds makers say that possibility is a 30-to-1 longshot. I'm a fan of the 'Boys and I think that's being way too optimistic! (Cowboys playing Detroit Lions in Dallas by Kay Bell) Professional football fans are ready for some football as the NFL's 2018 season kicks off tonight. And the league itself may finally be ready for some legal gambling on its sport. The reason is, of course, money. Billions in betting-related revenue: National Football League could pocket an added $2.3 billion a year... Read more →


This time of year, my social media streams are full of photos of my friends' children as they head back to class. And it's not just the youngest students being celebrated. Yes, I'm old enough to have peers with kids in college. While all these students' parents are proud of their progeny's new educational milestone, there's also a bittersweet tinge to all those Facebook postings of surprisingly grown up kids. And, of course, there's the realization that this next phase of their youngsters' lives is going to cost them. In some cases, the costs will be a whoooooole lot. Ever... Read more →


Trees in September will see their first fall color. (Photo by Jonathan Bloy courtesy Bloy.net) Hello, September. It's nice to have you back. You are a month that offers mostly-welcome transitions. There are beginnings, as students start a new school year. Parents nationwide say "thank you!" There are endings, as summer gives way to fall's cooler temps and foliage changes. Those of us tired of heat waves want to know what took you so long!?! There are expectations, as the end of the year and its many holidays approach. It's never too early to start planning for these. My Christmas... Read more →


Labor Day 2018 doesn't bring much good news for unions. Membership in the workplace organizations has, at best, stalled. Politicians and the public tend to view them unfavorably. And they lost a tax break in last year's tax reform bill. But there's a faint light for unionized workers thanks to a bill to restore their dues deduction and make the expense easier for more members to claim. Mention "unions" and most of us think of hardhat wearing men, like these members of the Utility Workers Union of America clearing storm damage. But union memberships cover a wide range and variety... Read more →


An EU sign greets international travelers at a passport control checkpoint at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany (Voice of America News photo) Many folks are taking one final quick vacation this long Labor Day weekend to mark the end of summer and beginning of the school year. But some folks who are crossing international borders might find they're not welcome. It has nothing, however, to do with the country they want to visit. It's because of their passports have been revoked because they owe big tax bills. How tax bills hamper travel: Since the December 2015 enactment of the federal... Read more →


Sen. John McCain, a decorated U.S. Navy fighter pilot, addressed the Naval Academy Brigade of Midshipmen in Annapolis, Maryland, in October 2017. (Photo courtesy Sen. McCain's Facebook page) The late Sen. John McCain, in keeping with his maverick tendencies to buck even his own political party and to work across the aisle, offered a tax plan during his 2000 quest for the Republican presidential nomination that borrowed from Democrats and Republicans alike. That proposal 18 years ago by the Arizona Republican called for $237.5 billion in tax cuts over five years in such portions that they could be embraced by... Read more →


New York Giants fan chow down at a pre-NFL game tailgate party. (Photo by Ben Vardi via Wikipedia Commons) College football begins in full force this Labor Day weekend. The professional pigskin players kick off the 2018 season on Thursday, Sept. 6. That means crazy body paint, tons of tailgating and betting. Yes, although professional sports leagues and especially the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hate to admit it, gamblers put down billions on games every year. Most of those wagers have been, and will continue to be, placed illegally despite the May 14 decision by the Supreme Court of... Read more →


Tourists still love Disney's original castle at its flagship theme park in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Tuxyso via Wikipedia Commons) Most major corporations want cities and states to provide them massive tax breaks to move to or keep their operations in a specific place. Just look at Amazon, which is expected to soon announce the home of its new tax incentive laden second headquarters. The House of Mouse, however, is taking a different approach. This week the Anaheim City Council voted to end agreements with Disney that provide tax breaks for the original Disneyland theme park, Disney California Adventure and... Read more →


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did away with exemptions, a particularly concerning change for large families. Exemptions were a specific dollar amount, adjusted annually for inflation, that taxpayers could claim for themselves, their spouses if filing jointly and dependents. The exemptions total helped reduce the amount of filers' income subject to tax. TCJA supporters, however, say not to worry. They say the new law's lower income tax rates, wider income brackets, larger and more refundable child tax credit and $500 tax credit for other dependents will make up for the eliminated exemptions. Dependents guidance: The Internal Revenue Service... Read more →


The tax collection efforts of four private debt collectors are paying off, bringing in $56.6 million in previously uncollected tax revenue in the first 14 months they've been on the job. However, it cost the tax bill collectors $55.3 million to do that job, netting Uncle Sam only $1.3 million. That's the word from an Internal Revenue Service report on the most-recent iteration of the private tax debt collection program. "Contrary to critics' claims and despite its slow-roll out, the IRS private debt collection program is already demonstrating that it can more than pay for itself with revenues returned to... Read more →


Donors to charities are used to scrambling on Dec. 31 to get their tax-deductible gifts to nonprofits in under the tax-year wire. But thanks to Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changes, many are facing a deadline today, Aug. 27. The TCJA set a new $10,000 limit on state and local tax (SALT) payments that can be deducted on federal returns. To get around that, several states established charitable funds to which their residents, who claim itemize deductions on their federal tax returns, could make SALT payments. Those gifts to the state then would be deductible as charitable donations, which was... Read more →


One, in addition to being the loneliest number, also soon could cost some Chinese taxpayers when it comes to their family size. Three years ago, China abandoned its policy, which had been in place since 1979, of fining people for having more than one child. Now Chinese leaders want to encourage people to have more kids. The reason for wanting more babies is that China's previously restrictive family planning policy has produced a growing aging society and a shrinking young population. That's not healthy for any economy. To remedy that situation, China is exploring a variety of proposals, including a... Read more →


Americans have always been mobile, as evidenced by this vintage photo from Flatbush Moving in Linden, New Jersey. Now some folks say they're relocating because of new tax law limits on deductions. Now that the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service have made it clear that they will restrict state efforts to work around the new $10,000 cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT), some folks are looking at other options. Among them, according to a New York Times story, is to move. (Unfortunately for them, the new law also, for the most part, ended the tax... Read more →


The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) view of Hurricane Lane near Hawaii via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Click image to watch the radar loop. Hawaii, it's Big Island already soaked by Hurricane Lane's rains, is bracing for a very near miss from the biggest weather threat to the Aloha State in decades. The storm, which hit category 5 strength earlier this week before settling in at a still very dangerous category 4, could come close to the islands of Oahu, Molokai and Maui on today and Saturday. Even without making landfall, Lane's size and rainfall reach could,... Read more →


One of the first questions I got when states started working on chartable programs that would let their taxpayers get around the new $10,000 cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) was how any Internal Revenue Service action might affect existing programs. We finally have an answer and it's not good. "Congress limited the deduction for state and local taxes that predominantly benefited high-income earners to help pay for major tax cuts for American families," said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin in a statement accompanying the regulations. "The proposed rule will uphold that limitation by preventing attempts to... Read more →


The courthouse where a federal jury on Aug. 21 found Paul Manafort guilty of eight charges, including five tax evasion counts. Could he also face state charges? (Photo via Google Earth) It's the day after bombshell revelations in two federal courtrooms and the political and tax world is still abuzz. Almost simultaneously on Tuesday, Aug. 21, afternoon, two of Donald J. Trump's former presidential campaign officials faced serious legal judgments in two separate courtrooms. In New York City, Trump's former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to eight federal felony counts of tax and bank fraud, as well as campaign finance law... Read more →


School's starting, meaning parents and students need to study up on how the new tax laws do and don't affect the many tax-favored ways to pay for classes. We're all still learning about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was passed late last year and took effect, for the most part, at the beginning of 2018. One area where we all need some tax lessons, especially with the start of the first school year under the new tax law's provisions, is how it affects educational tax breaks. It does make some key changes to some of the tax... Read more →


Classes, from Kindergarten to high school to college, are or about to be in session across much of the United States. That means parents can breathe a sigh of relief now that schools and teachers will once again add structure to their children's lives. But the beginning of the school year also prompts a new parental concern: their youngsters' privacy. No age limit for ID theft: Identity thieves don't set age limits on the people whose lives they try to steal. When a young person's identity is stolen, it sometimes takes longer to discover since most kids aren't involved in... Read more →