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February 2016

Donald Trump's opponents for the Republican presidential nomination have to be jumping for joy (OK, my one and only Leap Day reference, I promise) today with the opening he's provided them by playing coy about his personal tax returns. During last week's GOP debate, Trump cited Internal Revenue Service audit of his tax returns as the reason he's not releasing his 1040s to the public. While that's probably the sound advice he's getting from his tax counsel, Trump's main competitors are taking full advantage of the curiosity in the billionaire's taxes. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are coming after Donald... Read more →


There are many reasons folks are leery of the Internal Revenue Service, but asset seizures have to be at the top of the list. The IRS isn't the only tax collector to seize assets for nonpayment of taxes. State revenue officers use the process, too. This extreme step generally is taken by Uncle Sam's tax collector when a taxpayer has failed to pay the legal tax due either because of neglect or willful refusal. In these cases, there are guidelines the IRS must follow, including giving the taxpayer notice of the tax assessment and conducting a hearing if requested by... Read more →


If you make money, you generally have to file a tax return. And while some young taxpayers are able to avoid filling out a 1040, every filing season there are a lot of new filers in their 20s or younger fulfilling their tax duties for the first time. What do you mean this little guy owes taxes? The Internal Revenue Service's Statistics of Income for the 2013 tax year, the latest one for which there is complete data, reports that more than 25 million filers were younger than 26. These young taxpayers accounted for 17 percent of that year's filings.... Read more →


That Donald J. Trump. He apparently is special, even in the Internal Revenue Service's eyes. His tax returns have been audited a dozen or so times. They still are under IRS examination, says the Republican presidential nominee front-runner. That's why he can't let the voters see his 1040s. Click image to hear Trump explain his tax audit issues during the CNN GOP debate on Feb. 25. "I'm being audited now for two or three years, so I can't [release my returns] until the audit is finished, obviously," Trump said during CNN's Republican debate Thursday (Feb. 25) night. Really? This seems... Read more →


Paying taxes isn't voluntary. That's why there's payroll withholding to take the money out of our wages before we get our checks. Don't pay your taxes or file late and you'll be hit with a tax penalty. But the Internal Revenue Service does rely on taxpayers to voluntarily file a return every year and if enough tax hasn't been withheld, pay any added amount that's due. The process is a bit different for self-employed folks. Here the IRS expects estimated tax payments (generally four a year via Form 1040-ES) in addition to an annual Form 1040. Good tax citizenship, however,... Read more →


I'm working on a tax story on my laptop, periodically referring to some background material on my PC screen (yes, I still have one of those dinosaurs). Nearby is my smartphone, which keeps flashing with news updates (c'mon, surely there's more happening than Donald Trump rants!). And I'm listening to some tunes (the Hamilton cast album rules!) via my tablet. Yes, I sometimes -- OK, all the time -- think I'm overly connected. But such electronic options can really come in handy at tax time for folks who want to use their handheld devices to deal with their 1040s. That's... Read more →


Donald J. Trump, the leader for the Republican presidential nomination, is happy to talk about how he pays the IRS as little as possible. He's even taken to Twitter, his favorite social media platform, to do a little tax trash talking with some then White House wannabe competitors. During that exchange on the Oct. 15, 2015, extended filing deadline date, he shared a photo of himself signing his 2014 return. But The Donald is not quite ready to actually let us see at least some of what was on all those tax forms. Media calling for DJT tax returns: The... Read more →


If you drive you've got to be thrilled with the price of gas right now. Every time I've filled up my car over the past six months, I've snapped a shot of just how cheap it is. That $1.419 a gallon photo to the left was from last weekend. As I drove past my local gas station yesterday, I saw that it had dropped two more cents. Low pump prices, however, could mean more taxes for motorists in nine states where, says the Tax Justice Blog, lawmakers are seriously considering gas tax hikes. So which drivers should be worried? Those... Read more →


One of my favorite faux inspirational sayings suggests a way to deal with stress, which is a major issue for many folks at tax time. "When life is stressful, do something to lift your spirits. Go for a drive. Go two or three thousand miles away. Maybe change your name." It actually works, the taking a short drive, I mean. Thankfully, neither my taxes nor the rest of my life has gotten so overwhelming (yet!) that I've been tempted to follow the rest of the tongue-in-cheek advice. And in addition to the mental and emotional relief, some of the driving... Read more →


If you work in the world's oldest profession, finances can be problematic. First, your job is illegal, so you don't want to do anything to draw unwanted attention to your line of work. Neither do your clients. So escorts, prostitutes and other types of sex workers tend to operate on a cash basis. That, however, raises the question of what to do with all those loose dollars. Even with today's minuscule interest rates, you don't want to keep cash under a mattress. Tracing cash transactions: Banks, despite all their problems, are generally safer than having a lot of dollars stashed... Read more →


Millennials are relishing their influence in the current presidential campaign, especially on the Democratic side where they're helping make the nomination race very close. But when it comes to taxes, this younger generation apparently is not nearly as confident. A recent survey by NerdWallet and Harris Poll found that millennials fear tax season more than other tax-paying age group. Fear of filing mistakes: The reason for the dread? Potential tax mistakes. Around 80 percent of the young adult taxpayers told pollsters that making an error on their 1040s was a major filing concern. That's understandable. Making a tax mistake can... Read more →


One easy -- and scary -- way to know that we're at the peak of tax filing season is to look at the number of questionable emails, text messages and phone calls you're getting from folks seeking details about your taxes. Just this month, I've received two calls from the ubiquitous fake Internal Revenue Service agents threatening me with legal action. The first one, which was left as a message on my office answering machine, was obviously a poorly done mechanical scare tactic. The second call came a few days later, also from a bot, but better quality. I answered... Read more →


William Cobb, president and CEO of H&R Block, agrees -- to a point -- with folks who are calling for tax reform. H&R Block top executive Bill Cobb talks tax reform on CNBC's Squawk CEO Call. Click image to view the video. Cobb was in New York City on Tuesday (Feb. 16) to tout Block Advisors, his company's new tax and financial planning option for small businesses, and ring the NY Stock Exchange's opening bell. Since he was in town, he made the media rounds, dropping by CNBC studios to talk about tax reform. Some "silly" tax laws: The panel... Read more →


What's one way to get state lawmakers to consider tax legislation? Threaten to effectively shut down one of its top college football programs. That's exactly what new Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards did. The Louisiana governor's budget warning has hit the state like a bolt of lightning. He says that without tax increases, there could be no LSU football this fall. Click image to view the SI Wire video report via Campus Rush. Edwards, a Democrat who succeeded Republican Bobby Jindal, took to the airwaves last week to outline the state's economic woes before the Louisiana legislature convened Feb. 14... Read more →


Today's federal holiday officially is Washington's Birthday. The Father of Our Country was born on Feb. 22, 1732, and his day used to be celebrated on that actual date. But starting in 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted the commemoration of George Washington's birth to the third Monday in February. Soon thereafter, it became known popularly as Presidents Day, primarily because Abraham Lincoln's birthday was Feb. 12 -- and, say cynics, retailers are always looking for a hook on which to hang a sale sign. Joining George and Abe in celebrating birthdays this month were William Henry Harrison on... Read more →


There are very few times when folks are on the Internal Revenue Service's side, but this might just be one of them. The IRS has slapped pharmaceutical bad boy Martin Shkreli with a tax lien totaling more than $4.6 million. Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli in happier times. Shkreli became a global villain last year when he jacked up the U.S. market price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill overnight, a 5,556 percent increase. The anti-parasitic drug is used in AIDS treatment and at was produced by Turing Pharmaceuticals, which Shkreli founded and served as chief... Read more →


If you live in Maryland and your significant other isn't particularly romantic, you might be able to pick up a useful Valentine's Day gift and save on some taxes. The Old Line State this long holiday weekend is waiving its 6 percent sales tax -- which is this week's By the Numbers figure -- on purchases of qualifying energy efficient items. The sales tax holiday began at 12:01 a.m. today, Saturday, Feb. 13 (sorry for the late notice; I had a busy day!) and continues until 11:59 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15. The Comptroller of Maryland special Web page says the... Read more →


Everyone was reminded last week of Albert Einstein's brilliance. Almost exactly 100 years after the wild-haired physicist posited the existence of gravitational waves, scientists confirmed their existence. Tax folks, however, always acknowledged Einstein's genius. He did, after all, note that even he was baffled by the U.S. tax code. That's one of the biggest problems with taxes. They often make even the smartest among us feel like idiots. Tax software helps. The computer or online programs walk you through the filing process, tying your real-life experiences to the tax breaks that could save you some money. If you feel more... Read more →


Super Bowl winners get it all. More fan adoration. Parades. A flashy piece of jewelry. Trips to Disney World. More taxes. Around a million Denver Broncos fans, including 24,000+ truant schoolchildren, thronged the Colorado capital on Feb. 9 to welcome home their NFL Champions. Photo by Enrico C. Meyer via Twitter. For many of the players in the NFL championship game, that last "benefit" is more than they bargained for. In fact, note a couple of tax attorneys, some of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers players actually lost money by playing in Super Bowl 50. Wait. What? How is... Read more →


The legislative merging of international manufacturing and the Internet is complete. The Senate this afternoon finally approved H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which the House handily passed last December. Part of the bill permanently prohibits any tax -- and even removes the few existing levies -- on Internet access. Internet access vs. Internet sales taxes: Senate action on the measure, which primarily streamlines the U.S. Customs system and eases the border clearance process for much shipping and international commerce, had been slowed by lawmakers who also wanted to consider Internet sales taxes as part... Read more →