Margaret Reid won $1.2 million on an $18 Kentucky Derby bet at Retama Park in San Antonio. It was the biggest payout ever at the track, according to the racetrack's general manager Bill Belcher, who congratulated Reid. (Photo courtesy Rachel Bagnetto, Retama marketing department) The Internal Revenue Service loves the Kentucky Derby. Actually, it loves the full Triple Crown slate. Not only do thoroughbred owners, trainers and jockeys makes big, taxable bucks during the Derby's run for the roses, as well as at the subsequent Preakness and Belmont races, so do some bettors. Few race aficionados, however, are as lucky... Read more →


Lava slowly flows from a fissure that opened on a Leilani Estates street on May 5, 2018, after Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted. (United States Geological Survey public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons) The United States' 50th state is home to many extraordinary things. Exotic flowers. Magical beaches. Unique birds. An active volcano. It's that last thing that's got folks worried right now. Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday, May 3, accompanied by dozens of earthquakes, the release of dangerous sulfur dioxide and lava flows. The 6.9 magnitude Kilauea-associated earthquake that shook the Big Island on May 4 was the most powerful... Read more →


Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Today is a commemoration of the Mexican Republic's victory in 1862 over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. While it's a national holiday in Mexico, festivities in that country are mostly located in and around the Puebla region. Here in the United States, however, Cinco de May is a big deal. That's especially true in Texas, where my native state once was part of Mexico. The Lone Star State's origins and the role of Mexican nationals and other Texians in helping establish Texas' independence in 1836 is one reason why we celebrate Cinco. That, and... Read more →


Click image to watch the Mos Eisley cantina scene, in which these musicians provide the catchy background tune, from the 1977 Star Wars movie that launched the sci-fi film franchise. Merry May 4th. Yes, this is another goofy, made-up holiday, but one that's dear to sci-fi fans (and punsters), particularly those devoted to Star Wars. The film franchise's iconic "May the force be with you" greeting is celebrated each year on the similar sounding "May the Fourth be with you." As a long-time sci-fi fan and a college student who waited in a long line to see the 1977 debut... Read more →


Big wave surfing fall by jihx via Giphy.com The Internal Revenue Service warns that there's a growing wave of identity theft attempts against employers. This National Small Business Week 2018, the tax agency offers advice on how to keep your company afloat in the fight against these crimes. Identity thieves have long made use of stolen Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) to create fake Forms W-2 that they would file with fraudulent individual tax returns. Fraudsters also used EINs to open new lines of credit or obtain credit cards. Now they are using company names and EINs to file fraudulent returns.... Read more →


Today marks the midpoint of National Small Business Week 2018. What better way to celebrate than by taking a look at the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's changes to depreciation and expensing. Yeah, I know. But it is a tax blog. So here goes, courtesy a fact sheet on the topic issued by the Internal Revenue Service. Expensing enhancements: Expensing under Internal Revenue Code section 179 allows businesses an immediate tax break on some property rather than making them spread out the assets' tax value over years via depreciation. Companies can still choose to expense the cost of any section... Read more →


It's all about the angle for a budding photographer attending summer camp to hone her skills. (Photo courtesy Olds College via Flickr Creative Commons) Hello, May. You are indeed a very merry month, what with your longer days, warmer weather, lovely flowers and the impending end of classes. Yep, all you parents were smiling until you got to the end of that sentence, weren't you? School is far, far more than a day care for our children. But the fact that teachers and other educators keep an eye on kids for much of the day is a very consequential consideration... Read more →


Small businesses like Wild Scoops, which sells handcrafted Alaskan ice cream and is featured on the Small Business Administration Instagram account, are saluted this National Small Business Week. Happy National Small Business Week 2018. OK, technically it started yesterday, Sunday, April 29, and runs through Saturday, May 5. I like that it's a full seven-day week, not just a Monday-through-Friday work week since most small business owners are on the job way more than the traditional five-day, 40-hour weeks. This week has been celebrated annual since 1963 as a way to recognize the contributions of U.S. entrepreneurs and small business... Read more →


May 4. That's the day the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee wants the Internal Revenue Service to explain exactly what happened on this year's Tax Day. If you were a last-minute filer, especially one trying to pay your 2017 tax bill, you remember the hassle on April 17 when the IRS experienced a spectacularly ill-timed systems crash. That day, one of the busiest of the year for the IRS, one of the agency's core systems in West Virginia failed. Unfortunately for the IRS and millions of tax-owing filers, it was the system that powered the IRS' Direct Pay and Payment... Read more →


Summer's fast approaching and folks already are making travel plans. Many of us will be heading out on our holidays by air. Recent and impending Congressional action won't have any major effect on our near-term travels. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill that's wending its way through Congress could make some changes to air travel later this year and for the next five years. House approves FAA bill: On Friday, April 27, the House approved by a 393-to-13 vote legislation that would extend through Sept. 30, 2023, expenditure authority for the FAA, along with the fuel and passenger ticket... Read more →


Still trying to figure out what you need to do to ensure that your family's health savings account (HSA) doesn't violate the new tax law's changes to maximum contributions? You can stop worrying. The Internal Revenue Service has relented on this issue. Almost 22 million people enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHP) and associated health savings accounts (HSA) in 2017, according to research by America's Health Insurance Plans. The political advocacy and trade association says that's up from just more than 20 million HDHP/HSA participants in 2016. Younger people, particularly millennials, are big fans of HSAs. A key reason for... Read more →


Photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr CC We got a little bit of rain last night as a cool front moved through Central Texas. Other parts of my native state, however, were pummeled by large hail. It's not the first damaging weather to hit Texas this spring and it definitely won't be the last, as the annual storm season begins to ramp up in the next few weeks. Starting this weekend, however, Lone Star State residents get some tax help in getting ready for whatever Mother Nature may throw out way. Certain storm preparation supplies will be tax free as the... Read more →


It's no secret that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was designed to primarily benefit big businesses. But in order to make those tax cuts more palatable to the rest of the U.S. taxpaying universe, Congress added what it promised were benefits for Main Street mom-and-pop operations, too. What's that saying about best laid plans? Four months into the new tax law and it looks like small businesses have a couple of issues with the TCJA. First, an analysis by the Joint Committee of Taxation found that the key tax break for smaller operations, the Section 199A pass-through deduction,... Read more →


High tax season ended on April 18. High tax scam season never ends. The Internal Revenue Service today warned of a twist on an old phone scam. Criminals now are using telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) to trick taxpayers into paying non-existent tax bills. It's not the first time this has happened. Back in 2015, the IRS warned of a telephone tax scam that employed spoofing, which is, in the criminal vernacular, the faking of a phone number that shows up on Caller ID. Tax identity thieves also have used smishing, the text messaging cousin of... Read more →


Through April 13, the Internal Revenue Service had received 118.6 million tax returns. It had issued more than 86 million refunds totaling almost $243.6 billion. The refund numbers are fractionally smaller than in 2017, but they are still big enough to mean the average amount of money that Uncle Sam has sent so far this year to taxpayers is $2,831. That average check or direct deposit amount actually is slightly larger than last year's amount. GOBankingRates recently asked Americans how they planned to spend their tax windfalls. The results were encouraging for money folks who preach fiscal responsibility. Forty-three percent... Read more →


The IRS still has a desk waiting for its new commissioner. (Photo courtesy Cage Design Group) David Kautter, no doubt, was among the millions of Americans who were glad to see the 2018 high tax season end. Kautter is the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner and he was on his way to Congressional hearing on how things were going when he got news of his agency's Tax Day computer hardware problems. How much longer will Kautter, who also is assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, have to deal with all the IRS' operational matters, including the many issues related to... Read more →


While millions of U.S. taxpayers were focusing last week on 2017 tax returns, a tax benchmark slipped past us. Tax Freedom Day 2018 arrived on April 19, a day after this year's revised Tax Day filing deadline and 109 days into the year. This day, according to the Washington, D.C.-based tax policy group The Tax Foundation, represents how long Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation's tax burden. The nonprofit takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. The Tax Foundation has been making the annual calculations since... Read more →


@bublywater via Giphy.com If you missed this year's doubly extended tax filing deadline simply because you procrastinated, or actually over-procrastinated, then you're out of luck. If you owe tax for the 2017 tax year, interest and penalties already are piling up. If this is you — no judging here, just some advice — at least get a belated extension request into the Internal Revenue Service ASAP, along with the money you owe, to stop that costly process from getting worse. The first Weekly Tax Tip of 2018 offers some guidance on moves to make if your missed the Tax Day... Read more →


Missouri taxpayers who have federal tax refunds burning holes in their pockets have a tax-saving way to spend that money. Today, Thursday, April 19, is the start of the state's annual Show-Me Green Sales Tax Holiday. Since 2009, this week-long event provides buyers the opportunity to purchase qualifying new Energy Star appliances without paying any state sales tax on the items. That's an immediate savings of 4.225 percent that, during the other 51 weeks of the year, would be added to these appliances' prices. Plus, depending on where you live (or travel to buy), the sales tax savings could be... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service had issues with some of its online systems on Tuesday, April 17, the day that was supposed to be the filing deadline for our 2017 tax returns. Those problems notwithstanding, e-fling and electronically paying any tax that's due today, Wednesday, April 18 — yes, today, the new filing deadline provided by the IRS to make up for its online inconveniences yesterday — is still the best move for many filers. The agency for years has been encouraging, and in some cases forcing, electronic filing and paying of taxes. The reasons are that it's easier (definitely for... Read more →