An historic interplanetary business trip 49 years ago prompted an astronaut to submit some travel expenses to his NASA bosses. Such claims still happen every day for more Earth-bound business travelers, but a tax break for unreimbursed work-related expenses is gone. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on Earth's Moon, photographs the lunar module at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969. (Photo courtesy the National Aeronautics and Space Administration/NASA) On a hot July afternoon 39 years ago today, my brother and I were ordered to come in from our play in the West Texas sun so that we could... Read more →


Today's Senate Finance Committee approval of Charles Rettig took a bit longer than originally expected. The reason was a decision this week by Rettig's future boss to ease most nonprofit donor disclosure requirements. Charles P. Rettig, nominated to be the next Internal Revenue Service commissioner, faces the Senate Finance Committee during his June 28 confirmation hearing. The Senate tax-writing committee was supposed to vote Thursday, July 19, morning on sending Rettig's nomination to the full chamber for confirmation. It was a much anticipated procedural step, since the the top IRS slot has been vacant for eight months. But the vote... Read more →


As expected, states whose residents will take a major federal tax hit under the new $10,000 limit on deductions of state and local tax (SALT) payments have headed to court. Connecticut, Maryland, New York and New Jersey on Tuesday (July 17) afternoon filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking to invalidate the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's (TCJA) changes to a long-standing federal tax deduction. In this latest semi-reform of the tax code, Congress essentially gutted the value of this itemized tax deduction for, in most cases, the millions in state income and local real property payments... Read more →


The annual sales-tax-free events generally billed as back-to-school tax holidays kick off the 2018 summer shopping season this week. There are 15 this year, three in July and 12 in August. Yes, kiddos, your summer holiday is winding down. Parents and school officials are getting ready for the resumption of classes in, for some jurisdictions, just six short weeks. That also means that it's time for back-to-school sales tax holidays. These annual events offer shoppers a chance to purchase many items their children will need, from clothing to books to supplies to computers, when they return to their classrooms. Bad,... Read more →


Gym memberships could be deductible. Medical flexible spending accounts would be more appealing. Those are just part of tax changes included in a series of health care bills approved last week by the Ways and Means Committee. Now the question is, will they make it into law? Working out at Contours Express. (Photo courtesy Flickr CC) It's hot here in Austin. That's probably why most of my neighbors abandoned their usual outdoor workouts and jammed into my regular exercise class this morning. This happens every so often. Being a West Texas gal used to wide open spaces, I find the... Read more →


It's my second favorite holiday, National Ice Cream Day! Yep, it's a sorta real holiday, occurring every year on the third Sunday in July as part of National Ice Cream Month. So many ways to enjoy ice cream on National Ice Cream Day and any/every day. (Image courtesy GIFS for Humans Tumblr). National Ice Cream Day became official in 1984 when then President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring its existence. And even though the holiday was the brainchild of the dairy industry, I can't think of many more things as worthy of celebration than this beloved and iconic treat.... Read more →


It's hot. Not just here in Texas, but across the United States. In fact, around the world. That means we all need to be careful. More careful than the hubby, who decided to mow our yard yesterday. And not during the relative cooler morning when temperatures were in the 80s, but in the afternoon when the thermometer nudged 100 and it felt even hotter. It wiped him out for the rest of the day and evening. I love my man, but I guess it's true that the heat does make us do dumb things. Deadly heat: Excessive heat also tends... Read more →


If you're superstitious or suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, today is not a good day. In case you haven't checked your calendar, it's Friday the 13th. Even scarier is the reality that any day can be unlucky if you happen to fall for a tax scam. It's true that most tax crooks use scams to steal your identity and then file fake returns to get fraudulent refunds in your name. It's also true, though, that these scammers work year-round. That's why Friday the 13th is a good day to look at 13 scary tax scams that have appeared so far this year.... Read more →


Yes, it's just TV. But I like it. A lot. I know a lot of folks, including many of my friends, still look down their noses at television. But like any creative enterprise, it can provide much more than just entertainment. From the get-go, television has been a reflection of every country's cultural, political and social perspectives. That's why I always look forward to the annual announcement of the Emmy nominations. (More on this year's prospective winners later. You can take this a threat or promise, depending on your personal opinion about TV and its awards.) At its most elemental... Read more →


The role of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in preventing the Internal Revenue Service from aggressively regulating tax preparers has prompted some questions about such oversight. Currently, the IRS uses a voluntary tax professional oversight system, but is expected to continue to push for Congressional authority to implement more stringent tax preparer regulations. Those who agree with the IRS (like the agency's National Taxpayer Advocate) argue that regulating tax pros is necessary in order to protect taxpaying clients. It also, they contend, would lead to more accurate tax returns and ensure a fairer and more efficient tax system Opponents of... Read more →


Judge Brett Kavanaugh spoke at the White House after being nominated to be the next Supreme Court justice. (Official White House photo by D. Myles Cullen via White House Instagram) Federal judge Brett Kavanaugh was tapped last night (July 9) by Donald J. Trump to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Kavanaugh, 53, has served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006, a position for which he was nominated by the last Republican Oval Office occupant, President George W. Bush. Like Trump's prior Supreme Court justice nominee, Neil... Read more →


With apologies to Charles Dickens, it is the best and worst of times for soda taxes. News out of Washington State today is that Seattle's sweetened beverage tax raised about $1 million more than predicted in its first three months. Seattle's tax — similar to others across the United States that tax a variety of sugary beverages but are popularly called soda taxes — took effect on Jan. 1, 2018. In its first three months as law, it reportedly raised almost $4.5 million. If that pace holds throughout the rest of the year, it will blow past the city's budget... Read more →


The trade war with China is on. At midnight on Friday, July 6, the $34 billion tit-for-tat between the world's two largest economies took effect. The Trump Administration placed added charges mostly on Chinese aerospace products, information technology, auto parts and medical instruments. Beijing retaliated with its own tariffs primarily aimed at on American farm products, cars and crude oil. But if China doesn't blink, the White House says it could ultimately impose charges on up to $500 billion of Chinese goods. Business opposition continues: For months, potentially affected U.S. companies and the organizations that represent their economic sectors have... Read more →


Couples by Michael Lehet/Flickr CC The hubby and I basically have a pretty equal, albeit traditional gender swapped, marriage. He's more persnickety when it comes to cleaning. So he does much of those household duties, including bathrooms and whole-house vacuuming. I hate that noise, so he vacuums when I'm out; that's one of the reasons I love him! We split kitchen duties, with the person who doesn't cook dinner doing the cleanup. We collaborate on investments, deciding how much and where our money goes. As for the day-to-day expenses, I take care of making sure the bills are paid on... Read more →


Two days ago, Americans celebrated our declaration of independence from Great Britain. That July 4th revolutionary spark was ignited, of course, by our protests against taxation by King George III without adequate representation. Over the years, however, the words of our 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, have proven prophetic. "The nation which had fought a revolution against taxation without representation discovered that some of its citizens weren't much happier about taxes with representation," noted my outspoken and observant fellow Texan. Still, most of us have come to realize the importance of taxes, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.... Read more →


One of those hammocks has my name on it, after I finish a few July tax tasks. (Photo by Roberto La Forgia via Flickr CC) School is out. The fireworks have been shot (except for the stashes of my neighborhood's teens, which based on prior post-July 4 experiences, probably will last another week). And the heat is definitely on. That means it's finally, fully summer. And that means that it's time to get down to some serious summertime tax moves. Yes, I know you want to head to the pool or beach or catch up on neglected novels or just... Read more →