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 →


Sunsets like this one at Zuma Beach in Malibu, California, make many Golden State coastal properties prime rental investments. But Golden State limits on property taxes on inherited homes cost cities and other jurisdictions billions of dollars. (Photo by Alex Beattie via Flickr CC) Californians love Proposition 13, the grandfather of tax-limiting ballot initiatives. Since its passage in 1978, it has kept a tight cap on property tax increases. But an expansion of the original Prop 13, enacted eight years later, and its unforeseen consequences have cost Golden State school districts, cities and counties of billions of dollars in revenue,... Read more →


I smoked for way too many years, back when I was young and feeling rebellious and immortal. So I have no standing to tell these kids today that smokeless smoking isn't good for them. My unsolicited advice probably wouldn't be heeded anyway. It appears that many young people already are hooked on Juuling. Jumping on the Juul train: For those who are unfamiliar with Juuling, and I was one of the until today, it's the latest iteration of electronic cigarettes. The verb comes from Juul, the product introduced to the vaping market in 2015 by Pax and spun off in... Read more →


A Lyft ride sharing vehicle in Atlanta. (Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil via Flickr Creative Commons) Most U.S. workers meet their annual tax responsibilities via paycheck withholding. Here you give your boss the information needed to calculate just how much income tax should come out of each paycheck so that you're Goldilocks at tax-filing time, not owing the U.S. Treasury too much or too little. The sharing economy has thrown a wrench into this system. Lots of folks with traditional 9-to-5 jobs are hustling on the side to earn extra cash. Others have committed full-time to gig economy work. Job... Read more →


This family, with four generations shown here, likely will feel the effects of the new tax law. (Photo by Azoreg via Wikimedia Commons) Things get complicated when you have kids. Those complications are, well, even more complicated when it comes to tax filing. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) made a variety of changes, in effect at least for tax years 2018 through 2025, that will affect millions of parents. Here's a quick look at key tax changes for dependents. Exemptions are eliminated: Under prior law, personal and dependent exemptions were excellent. These tax breaks helped filers reduce income,... Read more →


After years of being lambasted for efforts to regulate tax preparers, the Internal Revenue Service is on a roll in its efforts to oversee certain tax professionals. A recently introduced bipartisan Senate bill would give the IRS the authority that many argue it doesn't have to set standards for tax professionals who aren't subject to other professional guidelines. This is not the first time such legislation has been introduced. But those previous bills never went anywhere. However, the tide now seems to be shifting a bit in the tax agency's favor. Influential tax professional groups are among this latest legislative... Read more →


Taxpayer security remains a major concern across the United States. The Internal Revenue Service continues to use carrots — such as sharing security tips from tax pros who've been victimized — and sticks — specific data retention rules that practitioners must follow — to help protect tax pros and their clients. But the IRS is not alone in taking steps to protect taxpayer data. All states now taxpayer security breach notifications laws. And Virginia recently expanded its requirements, now mandating that tax professionals report any taxpayer data breach within a “reasonable amount of time." Enhancement of existing law: This new... Read more →


Donald J. Trump addresses troops at the Fort Drum, New York, army base prior to signing the 2019 fiscal year defense authorization bill. (White House photo; click image to watch Trump's address, as well as opening remarks by Vice President Mike Pence, on Twitter) Donald J. Trump today signed a defense spending bill that's received almost as much attention for the lawmaker it honors as for the billions in military funding it authorizes over the next fiscal year. Capitol Hill lawmakers dubbed H.R. 5515 the "John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019" in tribute to the... Read more →


Amazon makes money hand-over-fist year after year and that has propelled founder Jeff Bezos to the top of myriad "richest person" lists. But a portion of its success also can be attributed to the billions his company has received in state and local tax subsidies over the years. And that tally will balloon when eventual HQ2 tax subsidies are included. Even at Google in San Francisco, Amazon packages dominate the delivery cart. (Photo by moppet65535 via Flickr CC) Amazon has been promised or received almost $1.6 billion in subsidies from state and local governments over the last 18 years. And... Read more →


Click screenshot to watch Boston CBS affiliate WBZ's report on this weekend's just-enacted Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday. Massachusetts has had a difficult relationship with the sales tax holiday concept. Over the years the Bay State's lawmakers have struggled with the need to retain as much tax revenue as possible versus giving residents (and possible voters) a brief break from taxes on some of their purchases. The even has been regularly approved one year, only to be dropped the next, with lawmakers often deciding to hold a tax holiday at the very last minute. That's the case this year. For the... Read more →


Congressional Republicans are still fleshing out additional tax law changes, dubbed Tax Reform 2.0, that they hope to enact later this year. As for the first round of tax laws embodied in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), taxpayers, tax pros, many lawmakers and even the Internal Revenue Service are still sorting exactly what the tax code changes mean. Big and small biz tax breaks: The latest example is the Section 199A deduction. This 20 percent deduction for certain qualified business income ostensibly was created to give certain small businesses, known as pass-through entities, the same type of tax... Read more →


California wildfire smoke plumes as seen from space. (Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory) California wildfires that have claimed at least nine lives continue to rage. The Mendocino Complex fire has surpassed the 2017 Thomas fire to become California's largest fire on record. As of Aug. 7, the fire had charred 460 square miles, an area about the size of New York City. Meanwhile, the Carr fire near Redding torched more than 1,000 homes, making it the Golden State's sixth most destructive fire on record. Firefighters are doing their best to douse flames, but they're getting no help from Mother Nature.... Read more →


If you've been thinking since the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) about devising a way to do your current job as an independent contractor instead of as an employee, think again. The Treasury Department today dashed many such tax-driven work-related dreams. Treasury issued (finally!) proposed regulations on the new Section 199A deduction that it says will prevent employees from improperly reclassifying themselves as independent contractors. Lower tax on self-employment income: That work recharacterization seemed appealing in the immediate aftermath of the new tax law. Amid all that was included in the hastily written TCJA, it was... Read more →


Money courtesy Pictures of Money via Flickr Most of us can't afford extravagant wardrobes. And we own, at most, one house. But for many of us, there's one thing that most of us share with lavish-living Paul J. Manafort. We, like the former lobbyist and political consultant, are not fans of paying taxes, especially really big Internal Revenue Service bills. Rick Gates, Manafort's former right-hand man, today told jurors hearing the tax evasion and bank fraud charges against his former boss that Manafort disliked paying a lot of taxes. But, I hope, that we aren't following Manafort's alleged method to... Read more →


Al "Scarface" Capone at his sentencing for tax evasion. Back in the Prohibition Era, federal agents — notably those from the Internal Revenue Service — took down the notorious gangster. The tax agency's armed Criminal Investigation agents are still on the job. (Photo courtesy All That's Interesting: 25 Al Capone Facts) Paul Manafort's tax evasion (and bank fraud) trial is shining a spotlight, at least in the tax world, on the Internal Revenue Service's unit that goes after tax criminals. In most cases, like that of Donald J. Trump's former campaign manager, it's white collar tax crime. U.S. taxpayers don't... Read more →