When Amazon starts collecting sales tax from internet buyers in Hawaii, Idaho, Maine and New Mexico on April 1, it will mean the online retailer will be a tax collector for all 45 states and the District of Columbia that have the levies. No, it's not a bad April Fools' joke targeting online shoppers. On this April 1, Amazon really will start collecting state sales taxes nationwide. The Seattle-based internet retailer already was adding the tax line to invoices in most of the 45 states and District of Columbia that have sales (or similar) taxes. Now, final deals have been... Read more →


Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, have increased in popularity since they were created in 2004. More than 20 million people now have these particular medical savings plans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey last fall. KFF's analysis also found that the average account balance grew by more than a third last year to more than $1,800. Growth of HSAs could speed up under a Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Various GOP alternatives for Obamacare call for expansion of HSAs. High deductibles required: HSAs not only offer a way for account owners to pay medical bills, they... Read more →


The April filing deadline (it's on the 18th this year) is less than a month away. So far, the tax season is running slow. The Internal Revenue Service says that fewer than half of the expected 153 million returns have arrived at its processing offices. That indicates that there will be a mad rush to the tax filing finale. And that means that a lot of people will fall into the proverbial haste makes waste pit, being in such a hurry that they'll overlook some tax breaks. If you're careful not to miss any tax breaks for which you qualify,... Read more →


Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, are among the wildflowers that emerged early this year thanks to warmer than normal temperatures. (Photo of a Hill Country patch on March 18, 2017, by Kay Bell) Hello, Spring! You used to be my favorite season, but for the last few years — OK, the last dozen that we've been back in Texas — you've arrived in late February or early March and only lasted about three days. By the time you're official, which was when you clocked in at 6:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (5:29 a.m. CDT; I was asleep) today, it... Read more →


On April 1, Idaho residents will join the almost nationwide list of places where Amazon collects sales tax. No kidding. That day the Gem State will become the 42nd state — and 43rd taxing jurisdiction overall thanks to Washington, D.C., being part of the group — where buyers will have to pay sales tax on purchases delivered by the world's largest online retailer. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, in a statement issued to the Boise television station KTVB, called Amazon's tax collection decision "a matter of fairness." In addition to helping the state collect more revenue, Otter said the Seattle-based... Read more →


A Pennsylvania man said he didn't file 10 years' worth of federal tax returns because the forms required use of a Social Security number, which he considered analogous to the Biblical "mark of the beast." James Kerr Schlosser's 666 tax protest, however, didn't convince the Internal Revenue Service or the legal system. The 59-year-old Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, resident was convicted on March 7 of failing to report $2.3 million he earned as a medical equipment salesman. Foreign accounts, coins used in scheme: To evade the tax due on the millions, federal court papers show that Schlosser used foreign business trusts and... Read more →


Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, Texas, was famous in its heyday, part of which just happened to coincide with my youth, as a wonderful water park. No visit to relatives in nearby San Antonio was complete until we headed to Aquarena to ride in a glass-bottom boat, marvel at the mermaids and cheer Ralph the swimming pig as he made his famous swine dive. Click fish image for full video view of Aquarena Springs from a glass-bottom boat. The park is gone, replaced by a water research program under the auspices of Texas State University, or Southwest Texas State as... Read more →


Let me make this very clear from the get-go. I never, ever, ever recommend that anyone cheat on his or her taxes. But if you're inclined to be a bit aggressive with your Form 1040 strategies, your odds of catching a tax examiner's eye are decreasing. The Internal Revenue Service's audit rate has been dropping for years and that trend likely will continue, due in part to more agency funding cuts in the latest federal budget proposal. Fewer audits yet again: Recently released IRS data shows that in 2016 the number of individual audits dropped for the fifth straight year.... Read more →


Are we having tax fun yet? We did for while last night when it looked like we finally might get a look at Donald J. Trump's taxes. OK. We did get to see part of the new president's 2005 tax return, courtesy tax journalist David Cay Johnston and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes talk Trump taxes on March 14 with Pulitzer Prize winning tax journalist David Cay Johnston. (Click screenshot to view a segment of the Maddow show.) Trump tells tax all? The tax return provides some basic info, but raises a lot more... Read more →


Yes, there's the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. And, yes, a serious winter storm is pounding the Northeast. But today, March 14, attention turns to the men's college basketball championship. The quest for that title is known as March Madness and it kicks off with two games later today in Dayton, Ohio. Place your bets: I'm not a basketball fan, college or pro, but long-time readers know what this month means to me — gambling and taxes. While the Super Bowl is the year's single biggest betting day — we're waiting for the final tally, but last February's 51st NFL... Read more →


The United States and Canada share more than the world's longest undefended border. They also share attacks by cyber criminals on their online tax systems. A sign at the point where the railroad crosses the U.S.-Canada border at Peace Arch Park. This is the westernmost point on the continuous main section of the border. (Photo by Vmenkov via Wikimedia) Canada Revenue Agency’s website was down from the afternoon of Friday, March 10, until 5 p.m. Sunday, March 12, after tax officials discovered the site had a security vulnerability. South of the 49th parallel on Thursday, March 9, the Internal Revenue... Read more →


Is this how you're feeling today after losing an hour of sleep to the shift to Daylight Saving Time? I'm right there with you. GIF via PR's Tumblrdome Daylight Saving Time (DST), which most of us in the United States switched to overnight by moving our clocks one hour forward, ostensibly was created to make better use of daylight. Basically, for the next seven and half months we'll get more daylight in the evening when we are home from work and/or school. But the annual adjustment of an hour's loss of sleep is difficult for a lot a folks. Every... Read more →


Have you filed your tax return yet? Neither have I. Neither have millions of Americans. The weekly filing data the Internal Revenue Service delivers during high tax filing season shows that almost all the numbers are behind where filing was at this point last year. Started slow, stayed that way: When filing season kicked off back in late January, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said his agency was expecting 153 million individual tax returns to be filed in 2017. Most of those show up from January through the April deadline, which is on the 18th this year. There's usually a big... Read more →


A couple of Republican-proposed changes to Obamacare would affect a popular individual savings option, the medical flexible spending account, or FSA. Many of the items this shopper can find on her local pharmacy's shelves are eligible for flexible spending account reimbursement. (Photo courtesy FSAStore.com) Tax-saving company benefit: An FSA is a benefit offered by many companies where workers can have a certain amount taken from their paychecks every pay period and placed into a special account. These accounts can help you cover such things as child care, commuting and medical expenses. Even better, the money is put into the FSA... Read more →


Have you called the Internal Revenue Service for help this filing season? Your chances of getting through are markedly better than they were a year ago. After years of declining telephone assistance, an IRS executive and two other federal agency reps told a March 8 joint hearing of two House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittees that taxpayer telephone service has been improving. Internal Revenue Service Deputy Commissioner John Dalrymple and reps from TIGTA and GAO testified this week before a joint hearing of two House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittees about IRS service. You can watch the full hearing, but... Read more →


Today, March 8, is International Woman Day. In addition to recognizing women's contributions, some people in the United States also are participating in "A Day Without A Woman," asking women to stay home from work. Men and women shoppers often pay different prices for essentially similar products. And yes, the higher prices, known as the Pink Tax, are on items aimed at women. If that's not possible, which is the case for lots of folks regardless of gender, then supporters of today's added commemoration ask that women not shop to underscore our contributions to the economy. Women's $$$ contributions: And... Read more →


Republicans took a major step toward tax reform on Monday, March 6, with their health care replacement plan that kills more than a dozen Obamacare taxes. Donald Trump greets House Speaker Paul Ryan before the new president's first address on Feb. 28 to a joint session of Congress. The two men now must work together to enact a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. (Photo courtesy Speaker of the House) Not only would the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes erase some levies from the tax reform slate, passage of a GOP replacement health care plan also would clear the decks... Read more →