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March 2015

We're two weeks away from the annual tax return filing deadline. For most of us, that means we're stuck tax-wise with what we've got. The chance to make tax-saving moves ended, in most cases, last Dec. 31. But there is one last tax move you can make now that could affect your current tax filing: contribute to an individual retirement arrangement (or account, as most of us say). You have up until the April 15 filing deadline to put money into a Roth or traditional IRA and designate that money as a prior year -- 2014 in this case --... Read more →


Full disclosure: I didn't watch HBO's documentary on the Church of Scientology last night. We don't get the premium channel and anyway I had zombies walkers to follow. But I plan to catch "Going Clear" when it's available on video on demand or some streaming option. Alex Gibney's two-hour film apparently focuses more on certain specific allegations about the church, particularly in connection with two of its most famous members, actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise, than did the book upon which it is based. From a tax standpoint, how the Scientologists came to be officially sanctioned by Uncle Sam... Read more →


March Madness is almost over. As with taxes, numbers are critical. We've gone from the First Four to the Select 64 to the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight to today's games to determine the Final Four. Those four teams will meet up on Saturday, April 4, to decide which two men's college basketball teams will vie on Monday, April 6, for the NCAA championship. Click bracket for a larger view (opens as PDF). Also check out SBNation's full college basketball and NCAA tournament coverage. Ending a college sports tax break: College sports are huge money makers. We're still waiting... Read more →


Apparently some crooks have lines they will not cross. The criminal boundary for a con artist pretending to be an Internal Revenue Service agent was impending motherhood. Sarah Carr was the target of what the IRS says is the largest tax scam ever, in which individuals pose as tax agents and make threatening phone calls to people. The crooks tell call recipients that they will be arrested if they don't immediately pay an outstanding federal tax bill. Click image for the 9News video report. The Broomfield, Colorado, woman got such a message earlier this month on her cell phone. When... Read more →


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was ready to take a break from tax season. I'm now at that point where I'm beyond wanting a vacation. I'm thinking retirement. When will the hubby and I be able to join this group of happy retirees? Soon we hope! This cycle is not unusual, for me or other folks in jobs where the intensity ramps up to a certain deadline. Things get crazy and you get crazier and some days you just want to chuck it all. This too will pass. Or not. Retirement ruminations: No, it's not that... Read more →


Every year we whine about winter and wish for spring's arrival. Then Mother Nature shows up in a horrid mood and ruins everything. She was particularly nasty yesterday (Wednesday, March 25) to Oklahoma residents. A tornado in a Tulsa-area neighborhood killed one woman and twister magnet Moore about 125 miles to the south was hit again. The March 25 Tulsa-area twister viewed from a downtown hotel. "This was 2 blocks from my hotel & was taken by one of the other hotel guests," writes Gloria Bell on her Facebook page. This morning, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of... Read more →


You're finally ready to sit down and do your taxes. Are you sure? The only thing worse than filling out your 1040 and all those other forms is finding that you forgot something and have to file an amended return. A tax-filing checklist will help ensure you have all the information you need to complete your federal income taxes correctly. Generally, the documents and materials you need stay pretty much the same from tax year to tax year. For 2014 returns, however, there are a couple of new considerations. Obamacare filing issues: This year, millions of folks are dealing for... Read more →


As a homeowner who every year thinks that my local tax assessor has a much too inflated opinion of my house's worth, I certainly sympathize with anyone who fights for a lower real estate tax bill. But even I think the owner of what one real estate company lists as largest private home in Montana was asking a little too much of tax officials. Don Abbey of La Mirada, Calif., wanted his 2014 property tax bill of $367,696 on his lake mansion reduced by at least two-thirds. Photo courtesy LuxuryRealEstate.com Not going to happen. The Montana Tax Appeal Board has... Read more →


When Downton Abbey showed up on PBS back in 2011, the hubby and I were avid viewers. We're both Anglophiles, PBS supporters and it had a nice tax hook for me. Thanks to arcane British inheritance and tax laws in the early 20th century, Lord and Lady Grantham had to marry off their eldest daughter, Mary, to a distant relative to retain possession of the family estate. Lady Mary Crawley is shocked, perhaps at Rep. Aaron Schock's situation? Watch more of Lady Mary's and other Downton Abbey residents' reactions at the PBS Masterpiece website. The convolutions, both legal and emotional,... Read more →


Allgreens, a medical marijuana dispensary in Denver, has won its cash payment battle with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS demands electronic payroll tax deposits. Allgreens, however, began making its federal employee withholding tax payments in cash after its bank, leery of working with a business that Uncle Sam deems illegal, closed the dispensary's account. So although Allgreens was meeting its federal tax obligations in full and on time, it also was racking up penalty charges for not making them in the form the IRS wants. Allgreens headed to U.S. Tax Court. Now, however, the case is moot. The IRS... Read more →


Theoretically, everyone wants the Internal Revenue Service to do whatever it takes to stop identity theft tax fraud. But when the theoretical becomes practical, it's harder to be jazzed about IRS efforts to combat fraud. That's the case for folks who are part of the tax agency's channeling of The Who. The IRS is asking that classic rock and roll question -- and yes, younger readers, it was a real hit song back in the days of radio, well before the CSI television franchise -- of folks whose names and/or Social Security numbers show up on returns that in other... Read more →


This blog post was updated March 7, 2017 March has been a medical month for me. There is one good thing, however, about having doctors' appointments. I get to catch up on celebrity news. Every one of my physicians, from the ophthalmologist to my internist to sundry other specialists I won't list because, well, TMI, has stacks of People and Entertainment Weekly and Us magazines. And yes, I thumb through them, primarily to marvel at just who is considered a celebrity nowadays. In addition to catching up on pop culture, another good thing about all these doctors' appointments is that... Read more →


Uncle Sam is the biggest basketball fan for the next few weeks. He might not care that much which college team will eventually be crowned the NCAA men's hoops champion, but he definitely welcomes the taxes he'll collect on all the March Madness betting. Yes, it's time for another edition of gambling proceeds are taxable income. It doesn't matter how little you win or how you place your bets, if your picks pan out, you're supposed to report it on your tax return. Like that's going to happen. Unreported taxable winnings: The U.S. Treasury knows it will miss out on... Read more →


Everybody in the official tax world apparently wants to know what we regular taxpayers think about our tax system and how to improve it. First it was the Senate Finance Committee seeking public input on tax reform possibilities. Now it's the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) and even Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service itself. Talking toll-free tax help: First up is the TAP's effort to make getting tax help via telephone more effective. The Toll-Free Phone Line Project Committee is meeting at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time today, March 18, via teleconference. This panel is dedicated to improving the customer service... Read more →


Everybody puts on the dog for St. Patrick's Day, even sartorially conscious and/or wannabe Irish pooches. Dog dolled up for St. Patrick's Day. Photo by Michael Shehan Obeysek via Flickr. But the special green suit you bought just for today is not tax deductible unless being a leprechaun is your job. Apparel is deductible as a miscellaneous itemized expense only if it is ordinary and necessary to your line of work. Normal business attire doesn't apply: Before you get too jazzed about a possible new deduction in connection with your 9-to-5 at the cube farm, note that the Internal Revenue... Read more →


Not only is it a Monday -- and a freakin' crazy one, at least for me! -- it is exactly a month -- OK, a 30-day month -- until we have to get our 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service or ask for an extension. Tax filing deadline countdown clock screen shot Either way, we still have to pay what we expect to owe when we do finish up that tax paperwork. Did I mention it was a crazy Monday for me? Until I can get a better handle on the day, which might not be until much later in... Read more →


I can't imagine leaving my tax refund in Uncle Sam's hands for years. But then, I usually don't get a refund. Most taxpayers, however, do get at least some tax cash back every year. And every year, some folks don't claim what's theirs. This year, the Internal Revenue Service has around $1 billion for more than 1 million taxpayers who didn't file a 2011 tax return. The parceling out of that billion or so bucks to the 2011 tax year nonfilers could produce a nice chunk of change for some folks. The median refund check, says the IRS, is $698.... Read more →


If you didn't get acceptable Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, medical coverage last year and owe the health care law's shared responsibility payment, make sure it's being handled properly. The Internal Revenue Service is getting reports that unscrupulous tax preparers nationwide are instructing clients to make these penalty payments directly to the preparer. Wrong. If you owe this penalty, it should be made only as part of your tax return, not as a separate payment to the person who helped you complete that return. Correct payment processes: In most cases, the shared responsibility payment comes out of a taxpayer's expected... Read more →


This second Friday the 13th of 2015 is pretty scary for folks with money in the stock market. With just about an hour left in the trading day, the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 are all down. Sure, the drops are just fractional. And reasoned, dedicated investors know that markets fluctuate, sometimes wildly. If you have a good long-term investment plan and are patient, you should come out OK. Still, if like the hubby and me you're hoping to return sooner rather than later, you probably double clutch a bit whenever the market goes down even a little. But, as... Read more →


One of the benefits of a do-nothing Congress, at least from lawmakers' perspective, is that all the uncompleted work offers easy starting points for "new" legislation. Look at tax reform. The current Senate Finance Committee essentially is using the tax code overhaul playbook established by members in the 113th Congress. Now we have the latest iteration of online sale tax legislation. This week a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015. It's basically the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, which was introduced two years ago by the same core group of sponsors. The earlier bill passed... Read more →