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March 2016

Donald Trump has turned to taxes to divert attention from his restrictive, then recanted, comments on women's reproductive rights. Donald and Melania Trump in pre-presidential campaign days, heading into an Oscar de la Renta fashion show in New York City in September 2006. (Photo by Boss Tweed via Flickr) I hate to help him out, but taxes. Trump's campaign website has posted a letter from a couple of his attorneys addressing the audit of his federal tax returns. Unfortunately for the tax curious, the letter doesn't shed any light on what's in recent Trump tax returns. Instead, Sheri Dillon and... Read more →


You thought it was the perfect job. And it was. For a while. But it's time to move on because, like Jimmy McGill in AMC's "Better Call Saul," your way of doing business is just too flashy for your company's more staid culture. Good news. The Internal Revenue Service can help you find a new job ... as long as you follow the tax rules. Specifically, there are three requirements to write off your job hunting costs. 1. You must itemize. The costs related to finding another job are included in the "Job Expenses and Certain Miscellaneous Deductions" section of... Read more →


"Millions flee Georgia for the safety of North Carolina's bathrooms," quipped New Yorker columnist Andy Borowitz after the Tar Heel State's governor signed into a law a measure that, among other things, revokes local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The part of the bill that's gotten most attention is, as Borowitz notes, the one that requires transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender they were born with rather than the one they identify with. North Carolina is the first state to require this. Last year, Houston, Texas, passed a similar law for facilities... Read more →


All of us tax procrastinators -- and yes, I use "us" because I'm one of them -- still have three weeks to file our 2015 returns. But in the spirit of delaying my current personal tax task a bit longer (c'mon; 21 days is plenty of time!), I'm taking some more time today to look at what the top four presidential candidates' tax plans might mean for my future tax bills. Projected tax bills for a jointly filing married couple with no kids making $150,000 a year. The Tax Policy Center and Vox have made finding out easy with a... Read more →


Each tax season, millions of folks get a large chunk of money. For many, this refund money is the largest lump sum they'll see all year. A lot of those folks, however, don't have bank accounts. So they either get their Internal Revenue Service refunds in check form or they have the money loaded onto a prepaid card. Reloadable prepaid cards are available from many tax preparation software programs. Or from tax preparation firms. Or from major retailers such as grocery, drug and big box stores. Just Google the term for myriad options. But there's one big problem with these... Read more →


The eggs in your Easter basket are probably tax-free. Only a handful of states tax groceries. But you had to pay tax on the dye kit you dropped in your shopping cart, along with the chocolate rabbits and crème-filled eggs. Sweets and other snacks, seasonal and year-round, tend to be subject to sales tax. Successful Easter egg hunt by Andrew McDowell via Flickr And if, like the parents of the youngster pictured above, you went with reusable plastic eggs, you had to pay tax on them. Ditto the basket itself, along with that green stuff that doesn't look at all... Read more →


During this presidential primary season, the cost of higher education has been a major campaign issue, especially on the Democratic side. Taking a study break. "University Life 159" by Francisco Osorio via Flickr. Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing free college for all. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a plan for debt-free college. Business Insider has a side-by-side comparison of Sanders' College for All Act and Clinton's New College Compact. But until Clinton or Sanders is elected, students and their families will have to rely on existing educational tax breaks. Comparing current education tax benefits: The most popular are... Read more →


Folks who were at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on March 24 to hear Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen speak literally were rewarded. They got 35 cents. Thanks Washington Post money blogger Jonelle Marte for sharing via Twitter. Follow her at @Jonelle. OK, it's not that much. Koskinen explained: Now if this were the studio audience for the Ellen DeGeneres show or Oprah, you could have hoped, or even expected, that the envelope might hold something like a key to a new car. But this is the IRS we're talking about, so nobody should get their hopes... Read more →


Tax crooks just never stop. Now they're invoking the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) in a phishing scam. Real Taxpayer Advocacy Panel members at work. From left, TAP member Eileen Kelly, TAP Analyst Patti Robb, Local Taxpayer Advocate Barbara Johnson, and TAP members Jack Dell and Jackie Granger meet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to discuss ways to improve the IRS. (Photo courtesy TAP 2012 Annual Report; click image for links to recent TAP reports) TAP, on which I had the honor to serve, is a group of around 75+/- volunteers who work to help improve IRS customer service and responsiveness to taxpayer... Read more →


Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen addressed today's National Press Club luncheon. I wasn't able to get up to my former Washington, D.C., stomping grounds to hear what the commish had to say. I did, however, the next best thing. I read the transcript of Koskinen's prepared remarks and caught some of the Q&A session highlights via Twitter's #NPCLive stream. (OK, full disclosure, I did this while also periodically sneaking a peak at the muted MLB Network spring training broadcast of the Houston Astros blanking, so far, the New York Mets.) It's not surprising, given Republican presidential nominee front-runner Donald... Read more →


If you can come up with a way to make taxpayers' online interaction with the Internal Revenue Service easier, the agency wants to know. In fact, the IRS is so eager for real-life input on a prospective taxpayer Web option that it's offering a $10,000 cash grand prize to the person who can "reimagine … and design the taxpayer experience of the future." Even better, it's not a winner-take-all contest. In addition to the $10K top prize, the challenge is awarding other cash awards ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, with a total of $21,000 in prizes to be paid this... Read more →


In this media saturated age, there's no denying that everyone can benefit from some good PR. That also applies to federal agencies, especially the most-hated one, especially at this time of year. That's why the Internal Revenue Service (you got that already, right, from the most-hated reference?) is touting its successes against tax identity thieves. It has issued its Top 10 list of prosecutions against financial crooks during fiscal year 2015. During that government financial year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015, the IRS reports that it initiated 776 investigations into tax-related identity theft. It was... Read more →


Spring has sprung here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least according to the calendar. It arrived, depending on your time zone, late Saturday, March 19, or early Sunday, March 20. That makes it the earliest arrival of spring in our lifetime (thus far!). Maybe that's why some places welcomed the new season with snow. Regardless of the weather, one thing is a constant at this time of year. Lots of folks jump right into spring cleaning. Housekeeping is not really my thing. Thank goodness the hubby actually enjoys using a vacuum, and not just during the spring. Cleaning up and... Read more →


The 2016 federal tax filing season so far is, for the most part, statistically identical to 2015. Through March 11, around 74.456 million taxpayers have submitted returns. At this time last year, the count was 74.455 million. The Internal Revenue Service is running a tad slower this year in its processing of those millions of 1040 forms. However, the pace is less than 1 percentage point behind last year's return handling rate. Still waiting for your tax refund? Federal refunds seem to be on pace, but things are slow in many states. As for the most important issue, refunds, the... Read more →


The hubby and I have no children. We often, however, seem to find ourselves at places and events chock full of families. For the most part, that's OK. Although we're child-free, we get a kick out of kids in small doses. They often provide some chuckles. Or as in the case of the poor baby pictured below, literal out loud laughs. Sorry, kiddo, but peas are good for you. Really! Plus, it always helps to know that when we get in our car and head home, it's just the two of us! Families still rule: We're in the minority. Most... Read more →


In case you haven't check the countdown clock over in the ol' blog's right column, the filing deadline for your 2015 tax return is just a month away. If you haven't done your taxes yet -- and I admit I'm right there in that procrastinating group -- this might be a good weekend to at least get started. And the Internal Revenue Service has a suggested resource to help with that task: Publication 17. Officially titled "Your Federal Income Tax," this 286-page booklet basically is, as its stylized Washington, D.C., skyline cover says, the IRS' tax guide for individuals as... Read more →


When the idea to honor an American woman by placing her image on the $10 bill was raised back in mid-2015, it seemed like a great idea. The bill would be redesigned to feature a deserving woman and unveiled in 2020, on the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Then "Hamilton" happened. Click-boom! "Hamilton" star Lin-Manuel Miranda and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew pose for a photo in front of the Alexander Hamilton statue on the south side of the Treasury Department, March 14, 2016. (Official Treasury Photo by Chris... Read more →


Are you celebrating St. Patrick's Day? Probably at least in some fashion. Everybody and their dogs love celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Photo by Michael Shehan Obeysek via Flickr. The National Retail Federation's annual St. Patrick's Day Spending Survey finds that more than 125 million Americans are planning to party this March 17th. The poll, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics for NRF, says the St. Paddy's celebrants are expected to spend an average of $35.37 per person on green garb, festive food and more. And most of those expenditures will include some tax costs. No toasts for beverage taxes: Let's... Read more →


We give the Internal Revenue Service an incredible amount of personal data. Our Social Security numbers. Our earnings amounts. Our family information. That's why folks are, rightfully, freaking out about the amount of tax identity theft out there. But in addition to crooks getting their hands on our assorted personal, tax and financial data, there's also a legitimate concern about how the IRS handles all our private information during its routine operation. Taking care of TBOR: The agency is trying assuage some of those worries by emphasizing the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR) and how it protects taxpayer privacy. In... Read more →


In another post last week, I likened tax security lapses to a wildfire. I've reconsidered that analogy, at least when it comes to the tax crooks who try to breach systems and ensnare us in their schemes. They are like water. They change course as often as needed, finding any tiny opening into which they can drip and then flow. Tax phone scam, take 2: Take, for example, a new tax scam that the Internal Revenue Service says is starting to show up across the country. Since folks are now on the lookout for the fake IRS agent call that... Read more →