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June 2017

July 2017

Tom Hiddleston as Loki, left, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor prepare to take down some bad guys in "Thor: Ragnarok." That movie, coming to a theater near you in November, was one of the many Marvel Studios productions that got the lion's share of attention at Comic-Con 2017. (Click image for full Marvel Studios trailer at YouTube) Comic-Con, the geek event of the year, just wrapped up in San Diego. Not surprisingly, Marvel Studios and its stars were the big draws at the 2017 event. I'm not a big fan of comic books and their spin-off products, but I did... Read more →


On the presidential campaign trail, Donald J. Trump promised to end many federal agency regulations. It's one pledge he's delivered. The day he moved into the White House, Trump's chief of staff issued an memo to agency heads calling for a freeze on rules that Obama Administration officials finalized before leaving office, but that have not yet taken effect. The Jan. 20 document basically sets up the framework for the Administration's framework for his deregulation policy. That was followed by Executive Order (EO) #13777 on Feb. 24 to reduce federal regulation and control regulatory costs. It calls for agencies to... Read more →


Ark Encounter's replica of the vessel used in the Biblical tale of Noah and the flood is the largest timber frame structure in the world, according to the Kentucky theme park's website. It is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. Ark Encounter, the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian theme park in Grant County, Kentucky, will have to stay afloat without the aid of $18 million in state tax breaks. The Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet sent the operators of the park, which features a massive replica of Noah's Ark, a letter last week notifying them that the park... Read more →


Alabama kicks off the annual back-to-school sales tax holiday 2017 season today, July 21. Mississippi's and Tennessee's weekend events also are at the end this month. But the 13 other summer sales tax savings periods aren't until August. With July half-way over, parents, students and especially retailers are variously anticipating and dreading school starting again. I'll leave it those with kids to describe their attitudes. But I do know that for businesses, summer slipping away means that it's time for the annual back-to-school sales tax holidays. Tax holidays are a temporary reduction or elimination of a tax. For the summer's... Read more →


Some type of marijuana use is legal in more than half of the United States. State and local coffers get associated pot taxes, but that could stop if the feds start cracking down on what is still an illegal drug in Uncle Sam's eyes. (Photo courtesy GreenerCulture.com) U.S. Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions apparently really wants federal law enforcement to once again target marijuana. But a return to a tougher prosecution by Uncle Sam could produce some serious push-back from states where pot is legal if they show tax revenue results like Colorado. Since Colorado became the first the... Read more →


If you've been paying attention to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with some Russians last summer, you know the White House has given two reasons for the get-together. The explanation that caught my tax eye was that the group talked about adoptions. The president's oldest son said that one of the Russian nationals came to Trump Tower to lobby for reversal of the Magnitsky Act. The law gets its name from attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 while being held in a Moscow prison. Foreign fight, domestic family effects: In 2012, the U.S. law bearing Magnitsky's name was enacted. It... Read more →


Your decision to stay in a private home or a traditional lodging option depends on lots of things, including the accommodations' costs that often have added occupancy taxes. (Image courtesy Reunion Vacation Homes) Are you booking your summer vacation stay via Airbnb? You might want to budget a bit more for lodging taxes. The popular private residential rental service collects sales and occupancy taxes on properties' leased in all or parts of 31 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Internationally, Airbnb also is acting as tax collector in six countries. Airbnb appears to... Read more →


Happy World Emoji Day! It's held on July 17 each year as a way to promote the use of emojis — like we need to do that! — and, according to Emojipedia (really!), spread the enjoyment that the colorful icons bring. The enjoyment goal got me thinking of how emojis might make one of our worst tax tasks more pleasant. I'm talking, of course, about our annual filing of returns. Most of us already use tax software. Surely it wouldn't be that difficult to incorporate the option of adding emojis to the lines we fill electronically complete. Dressing up your... Read more →


The spectacular hole 13 waterfall at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, New York, is one of the things that makes the property so valuable. But Donald Trump's attorneys say that property appraisers have set the price too high, at least when it comes to the value that determines the course and club's annual real estate tax bill. While Donald J. Trump was watching the USGA tournament at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club (where most summer weekends he plays golf), his attorneys around the country were working on ways to lower property taxes on some of his other courses.... Read more →


Honestly, rich people. You can afford to hire good tax advisers and accountants. Why don't you?!? That's the question I ask every time another celebrity gets in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. Last week it was boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. Now the latest wealthy person who just can't get a grip on taxes is hip-hop icon DMX. Although rapper DMX seemed pretty composed after his court appearance last week on tax evasion charges, I suspect at some point this was his reaction to the federal charges. The 46-year-old rapper, whose legal name is Earl Simmons, is accused of 14... Read more →


There are lots of reasons to dislike the Internal Revenue Service, but the House Ways and Means Committee took a step this week to eliminate one of them. The tax-writing panel on July 13 unanimously passed a bill that officially makes it harder for the IRS to seize assets under civil asset forfeiture policies. States are bit more obvious in their seizure of property, but the IRS takes assets, too. A bill to give property owners more rights in the federal seizure process has cleared the House Ways and Means Committee. The tax agency had made changes in 2014 regarding... Read more →


Shawn Campbell via Flickr Creative Commons As the health care battle on Capitol Hill continues, there's one thing upon which both side can agree. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. No piece of legislation is. Just ask Republicans trying to craft a replacement for Obamacare, as the seven-year-old health care law is known. And just ask a California couple who now owe the Internal Revenue Service almost $13,000 because of miscalculated Obamacare advance premium payments. Premium tax credit help: The Walkers, a married California couple, got health care coverage in 2014 though one of the Golden State's insurance marketplaces.... Read more →


Paid tax return preparers must sign their clients' 1040 forms and include their IRS-issued professional ID number. The IRS lost a court case to charge a fee for the identifiers, known as PTINs, but is seeking a stay of that order pending possible appeal of the case. If you're a tax preparer who's paid fees for your IRS-issued special identification number, you'll have to wait a bit longer to get any money back. On June 1, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that while the Internal Revenue Service can require tax preparers to get the ID... Read more →


Every financial adviser recommends that we all keep close eyes on our retirement plans, either by reallocating our investments or contributing more money throughout the year. Just last week, in fact, I put contribute to your retirement accounts on my list of 6 tax moves to make in July. Whether you're a young worker like those in this group or an older employee, take full advantage of your workplace's retirement plan. I felt like a bit of a nag, but apparently, folks — especially younger workers — need the constant reminding, especially when it comes to defined contribution plans such... Read more →


As Amazon offers taxable deals on Prime Day tomorrow, Washington online shoppers — and marketplace sellers — are facing a new tattle-tale sales tax law. Most online shoppers are paying attention to Amazon's upcoming third annual Prime Day specials. Tomorrow, July 11, the cyber-retailing giant is offering special deals throughout the day (or some as early as this evening) to attract business. The savings might be enough to offset the sales taxes that Amazon now collects on products delivered to all states that collect them. The full collection of sales taxes across the United States was effective April 1. That... Read more →


Undefeated boxing champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. is trying to avoid a knockout from the Internal Revenue Service. Mayweather still owes the federal tax collector a reported $22.s million for his 2015 taxes. That year, Mayweather reportedly earned as much as $230 million for besting Manny Pacquiao in the heavily promoted Fight of the Century. Floyd Mayweather's official weigh-in before his 2015 fight with Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas. Money earned on that match is at the center of an unpaid tax bill battle Mayweather's waging with the IRS. (Photo courtesy Pixabay via Wikimedia Commons) Rich, but tax cash poor: Mayweather... Read more →


The Senate will get back to work next week crafting an Obamacare repeal-and-replace measure, an already difficult task made more problematic by the messages lawmakers got from their constituents over the July 4th holiday. There are many reasons, both political and practical, that devising a health care system for all of America is so complicated. One of the key ones is because we are so diverse. In health coverage's case, the diversity issue is generational. Source: Oliver Wyman and Fortune Knowledge Group analysis "For the past few years, healthcare companies and policymakers have been striving to craft consumer health strategies,... Read more →


The cost of college continues to simmer as an educational policy and legal issue, particularly when it comes to student loans. Democratic attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia on July 6 filed a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department to stop her from changing rules that erased the federal student loan debt of those who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently. Consumer groups also have joined the litigation list. The Obama Administration finalized the so-called borrower defense rules last October. They were scheduled to take effect on July 1. DeVos, however, froze... Read more →


Do your summer plans include doing a little shopping, either at home or while on vacation? Then you need to know the maximum sales tax rate you might face, especially if you're trying to stick to a budget. Some states and municipalities operate on a fiscal year that kicks in on July 1. That means tax changes — including levies on sales — often take effect as summer is rolling around. The Tax Foundation has taken a look at the plethora of state and local sales taxes effective at the start of this month and produced the map shown below... Read more →


It's officially summer. Time for fun at the beach. And fun making mid-year tax moves. Happy July 5th, the start of midyear tax planning. With six months left in the tax year, it's the perfect time to make some tax moves that could reduce your 2017 tax bill. Here are six easy ones to take care of in July. 1. Adjust your payroll withholding. Did you get a big tax refund this year? Or did you owe Uncle Sam more than you expected? Either situation means that you need to reassess your payroll withholding. It's easy to do. Just give... Read more →